Getting a first-hand experience when it comes to women empowerment in Bihar, Dutch ambassador to India Alphonsus Stoelinga had a ride in an autorickshaw driven by a lady driver on the bustling streets of Patna.
Stoelinga, who was on a two-day visit to the state to strengthen bilateral ties through collaborations with Bihar government in the field of urban development, health and women empowerment, travelled from Soochna Bhawan to Raj Bhawan circle on Wednesday in a three- wheeler driven by Gudiya Sinha.
The 10-minute journey left him impressed not only because of her driving skills but also because of the way the women were being empowered through self-employment in the state.
“Ladies in the driving seat.
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This is innovative. Happy journey,” he said when he saw eight auto- rickshaws lined up with their women drivers waiting for him and other members of his delegation. Stoelinga said it was wonderful to see women driving autorickshaws in Bihar.
The Dutch ambassador encouraged the driver by speaking to her in broken Hindi and told her that he enjoyed the ride in her vehicle. “She is a very good driver,” he said as he hopped out of her autorickshaw.
Gudiya said she was extremely happy to get an opportunity to give a ride to a VIP in her auto. “I could not believe when I was first told about his trip,” she said.
Gudiya, who had to give up her studies after passing Class XII examinations to financially support her family, said it was a memorable experience for her.
“He congratulated me for my bravery to choose this profession,” she said.
Apart from Gudiya, seven other woman auto drivers-Shobha Devi, Sarita Pandey, Rinku Devi, Kanchan Devi, Pinki Devi, Anita Devi and Sushmita Devi- drove the other members of the Dutch delegation as well as officials of the Bihar government.
Bihar’s transport minister Brishin Patel said the trip had been planned to encourage the women auto drivers. “The Netherlands ambassador was curious to know about the risks while driving autos on the busy roads in Patna. But the women showed how good they were with their driving skills,” Patel said.
A handful of women had started driving autorickshaws after undergoing training in May last year. The Bihar State Autodrivers’ Association had launched a free training programme for them to learn the ropes of auto driving and become financially independent.
Since then the women have been driving autos from Patna railway station and Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport.
In its last year’s budget, the Nitish Kumar government had offered 100 per cent exemption from road tax to all women who purchase and drive commercial vehicles in another bid to financially empower them.