THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Since the lockdown which came into effect on March 25, 40-year-old Susy Kochukutty, an autorickshaw driver for the past eight years, has been finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Although she was able to sustain her household with the income from plying the autorickshaw before the pandemic outbreak, Susy was forced to find a viable means over the last few months. Help came in the form of e-rickshaws and e-autos launched in the city as part of the Smart City project. Thanks to them, she is now able to provide for her family.
Susy is among the 30 e-vehicle drivers employed by the city corporation. Out of the 30 beneficiaries, 28 are women and two are transgender people. The project sought to aid women belonging to the BPL (Below Poverty Line) category and have worked as autorickshaw and taxi drivers in the past.
“It has been three months since I started riding the e-auto manufactured by Kerala Automobiles Limited (KAL). Before joining the team, my financial condition was very poor. But now, I am able to earn at least Rs 500-600 per day,” says Susy who plies in and around Thycaud and starts her day at 9am. Apart from being pollution-free, e-autorickshaws are more cost-effective than vehicles running on diesel.
“Although it takes around four hours to charge the vehicle, I don’t have to spend money on fuel,” adds Susy.
A driver for the past 14 years, Mumtaj Fatima started off as a bus driver to support her family and later went on to drive autorickshaws. “When I initially started driving, I had to face a lot of criticism from society. But my husband and family supported. I started earning and could take care of my three children with what I earned,” says Mumtaj, who has been riding an autorickshaw for the past two years.
“Commuters have dwindled as compared to pre-Covid times. People are hesitant to enter the vehicle due to various misconceptions. However, there has been a gradual shift in attitude. People are inclined to hiring e-rickshaws,” says Mumtaj who welcomed the initiative by the corporation to employ women drivers. Karthik B, one of the two transgender persons to be inculcated into the initiative operates near East Fort.
“As I am a college student, I ride the autorickshaw during the evening. Though customers have been less due to the pandemic, I am able to earn Rs 400 per day from the trips,” he says.