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Guwahati’s Pashmina, Pinki Begum glide into male bastion of e-rickshaw drivers

Ariful Islam/Guwahati

Pashmina Begum and Pinki Begum ferry commuters in their e-rickshaws in the streets of Guwahati, the capital of Assam, to give a lie to the perception that some professions are out of the reach of women, especially Muslims. For both of them, this is the source of their livelihood.

Pashmina and Pinki drive e-rickshaws from Lalmati to Rajdhani Mosque via Bhetapara-Hatigaon road in Guwahati every day. Despite facing various hurdles including traffic restrictions, and bad roads, both of them manage to earn enough to run their families.  

Pashmina and Pinki feel that it is better to become self-reliant than to seek jobs in the private sector. They earn about Rs 25,000-30,000 per month by driving battery-driven rickshaws almost every day braving the blazing sun, rain, storms, and floods.

Pashmina Begum while speaking to Awaz-The Voice said “Initially I thought of doing jobs in the private sector. I got a few job offers. But my monthly salary was very low and the amount was not enough to sustain my family. Then the idea of driving an e-rickshaw came to an end. I was confident that driving an e-rickshaw would bring more income for me than working in the private sector. I have a small daughter. Driving my vehicle also allows me to spend quality time with my daughter.”

Pashmina Begum in driving seat

Talking about the challenges she faces as an e-rickshaw driver, Pashmina Begum said; “I pick up passengers from Rajdhani Mosque to Lalmati. When it rains heavily, we have a lot of problems. The road near Hatigaon High School gets much worse with artificial floods submerging the entire road. Initially, passengers were reluctant to check into my e-rickshaw as I am a woman. But slowly the people have experienced my smooth driving and more and more & more passengers have checked into my vehicle.”

Another female e-rickshaw driver Pinky Begum said; “I prefer driving a battery rickshaw than doing other jobs. Because I know how to drive myself. We feel more independent in our present job than doing a job in the private sector. We can drive e-rickshaws at our own will. But we won’t be able to do that in a private job.  My family fully supports me in driving an e-rickshaw.”

Pashmina and Pinki feel that women should be self–dependent and that a woman is capable of doing everything a man does. They didn’t face any inconvenience while driving.

On the other hand, both of them say, commuters shower affection and respect on them.

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The two women work hard: they leave home early and drive rickshaws till late evening. Also. both take care of the other needs of their family.

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