BHOPAL: Another male bastion has crumbled in Indore, India's cleanest city.
The two Pink iBuses, exclusively meant for female passengers in the 11.56 km long Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) corridor, now have women drivers.
Ritu Narwal, 35, the first of the two female drivers for the two Pink iBuses, started driving the Pink iBuses with female passengers between Niranjanpur Crossing and Rajiv Gandhi Crossing on Thursday.
Another woman driver, Archana Katare (25) too will join Ritu soon, after which both drivers will start driving the two Pink iBuses in tandem in the morning shift between 8 am and 2 pm.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh's most populated city, already has women auto-rickshaw drivers and women cab drivers. But Thursday marked a new beginning in the city's history, with Patnipura locality resident Ritu finally actualizing her childhood dream of driving a bus and that too with all women passengers.
Now women drivers to drive 2 Pink iBuses reserved for women passengers on BRTS corridor in Indore. After a month training on same BRTS, Ritu Narvale becomes first woman driver in Indore to drive iBus boarding women passengers. @NewIndianXpress@khogensingh1@gsvasu_TNIE pic.twitter.com/70YyVAoUYS— Anuraag Singh (@anuraag_niebpl) September 3, 2021
"The 2 Pink iBuses exclusively for female passengers was launched in 2019. While the conductors were women, the drivers were male, in the want of trained heavy transport vehicle license holder female drivers. But the search has ended now, as both Ritu and Archana, who hold heavy transport vehicle driving licences are set to drive the two buses in the BRTS corridor with elan. Both have undergone month-long training to drive the iBus on the BRTS corridor in wee hours (3 am to 5 am) and are now ready to drive with full passenger capacity," PRO of Atal Indore City Transport Services Limited (AICTSL) Mala Singh Thakur said.
AICTSL is the main public transport operator in Indore is headed by a senior state government official Sandeep Soni.
Ritu, who is the first among the two female drivers to drive passenger replete Pink iBus, started driving a van of a special children school in 2015, before making a crossover to driving taxis at five-star hotels in Indore. "I've dreamt since childhood to drive buses and the dream has finally come true. Despite my father telling me that driving cars, buses and trucks was a male preserve, I was stubborn enough to achieve my dream," Ritu told The New Indian Express.
The other woman driver of the Pink iBus, 29-year-old Moosakhedi resident Archana Katare too has been a commercial driver since 2015, driving taxis of five-star hotels in Indore. The mother of two kids, Archana has also accompanied her diesel-petrol tanker driver husband in driving tankers from Indore to Mumbai during the first Covid lock-down.
"For a woman who has driven petrol-diesel tankers between Mumbai and Indore, driving the iBus initially seemed very easy. But once into the 3 am to 5 am training schedule in the narrow BRTS, where small vehicles often ingress despite the ban, I realised that it was very tough to drive. However, now I'm confident of driving the Pink iBus with meticulous precision with full safety to female passengers," BA II student Archana said.
According to AICTSL PRO Mala Singh Thakur, with the next few days, both female drivers will be driving the passenger full Pink iBus formally as the trial run will end. "We're also scouting for two other competent women drivers, who could join Ritu and Archana in driving the two iBuses," Thakur said.