Pune: Women cab drivers were introduced to make female passengers feel safe, but this very safety aspect is the reason why the once strong team of women drivers has now reduced to just five.
City-based radio cab firm Wings Travels Management introduced an all-women cab service in their fleet in February 2016. The ‘Wings Sakhi’ service was available for women and operated by women.
That year the company started with 10 cabs in eight cities including Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. After a few months, they inducted 15 more cabs in their fleet. As of now, only five ‘Wings Sakhi’ cabs are running in the city.
According to an official of the company, initially there was a good response from women passengers, but after that the demand went down. “Now we have only have five cabs with women drivers. It needs more awareness. We are working on it,” said Rajesh Suryavanshi of Wings Radio Cab, Pune.
The service started for women was not the first in the city. In 2013, city-based KK Travels introduced ‘Nari Cabs’ which had 50 cars and hired 50 women drivers in the age group of 20 to 40 years. The vehicles had distinct pink and white colours to give a feminine look.
On condition of anonymity, a Wings Sakhi driver said, “I joined the service when it was introduced. Initially, there was a good response, but after a few months, I feel that response from the passengers dropped suddenly. Most women drivers were waiting for passengers, but rarely women came forward. The cab was equipped with a panic button. On pressing this button, the passenger will be connected to a 24x7 vigilance squad comprising retired Army personnel. A speed dial and a unique emergency number that women can dial when in distress has been added as a feature.”
Another driver said, “Whenever we were called by lady passengers during the night, we ourselves were a little scared about our safety. It was very hectic too as we again had to report on duty early morning after finishing our night trips.”