When Raji Ashok, an autorickshaw driver from Chennai, saw another driver ferrying a woman while being drunk, it pushed her to think about the safety of women at large.
Twenty three years since then, Raji has been just a call away for women who require rides late at night. All she requires is an hour’s notice to plan the rest of her night accordingly. Then, even if she has worked for eight or nine hours straight, she shows up on time, and is ready to assist.
The 50-year-old, who has been driving an auto for the last 23 years, migrated from Kerala to Tamil Nadu with her husband, who is also an auto driver. She is a BA graduate, but despite attending many interviews, was unable to find a job. To support herself, she took up the job of a driver.
Over the years, Raji has safely ferried over 10,000 women and also provides free driving coaching to those interested. “We need to teach women how to drive for free, because many uneducated women work as housemaids for a meagre salary, while an auto driver earns Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per month,” she says.