MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of women in Mumbai have won permits to drive auto-rickshaws, or tuk-tuks, through a lottery aimed at encouraging more women to take the wheel.
At least 467 women in the Mumbai metropolitan region and about 100 more in Maharashtra received the permits this week, and could be driving their three-wheeled vehicles in a couple of months, said Rajendra Navale, assistant Regional Transport Officer.
"This will help create jobs for women and encourage them," he said. "Abroad, women are even driving taxis. We want to see women here also gain in confidence and earn a living, so we would like more women to apply for these permits."
The auto-rickshaws - which may be painted pink or peach to distinguish them from the tens of thousands of male-driven, black-and-yellow tuk-tuks that ply Mumbai's congested streets - will also give priority to women passengers, Navale said.
Women-only commuter trains and coaches are common in Mumbai and New Delhi because of sexual harassment.
Studies have repeatedly shown a link between safe transport and women's economic empowerment and ability to work and study. India's transport systems have come under increasing scrutiny after a young woman was fatally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi in 2012, a case that led to nationwide protests and forced authorities to tighten laws on sex crimes.
Delhi was ranked as having among the most dangerous public transport systems for women in a 2014 Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of 16 cities worldwide.
(Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)