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She Taxi drivers Jaicy Ramesh, Annie Surendran and Sunitha B are providing essential cab services amid the lockdown. (Photo | Vincent Pulickal, EPS)

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), India – While the Covid-19 lockdown has rendered many cab and taxi service drivers jobless, a section of them plying have already come up with distancing practises and modified vehicles to ensure the safety of passengers. The ‘She Taxi’ project has been actively helping in transporting the elderly while also delivering medicines. T’Puram Express takes a look at the plight of city cabbies

Clad in a navy blue and pink attire, 64-year-old Annie Surendran is busy driving people to hospitals and workplaces amid the lockdown. One of the brand ambassadors of the first ‘She Taxi’ project, Annie is back again with the same enthusiasm. The project is 24×7 for and by women taxi service,  launched in the city around nine years ago by Gender Park, an autonomous institution under the Social Justice Department, which slowly became dysfunctional.

Thrissur-based but currently settled in Thiruvananthapuram, Annie drives all kinds of vehicles. She says: “I began driving an autorickshaw and got my licence in 1973. After a few years, I was qualified for a heavy vehicle licence too.” She is also the first woman autorickshaw driver in the state.Expressing her joy about the relaunch of the ‘She Taxi’ project, Annie says: “We want more women to take up this profession. Although the project didn’t succeed earlier, we will ensure that it becomes a hit this time and more women avail the taxi service. I have been getting many rides during the lockdown and to ensure the safety of my passengers, I have also kept a hand sanitiser for the passenger as well as for myself.”

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As many as eight women drivers are providing cab service in the city amid the lockdown. The ‘She Taxi’ project has resumed operations in association with the She Taxi Owners’ and Drivers’ Federation and Global Track Technologies which manages the online booking system. Sevices are being availed through the call centres. Jaicy Ramesh, who is 52 years old has also been driving She Taxi since its launch in 2013. 

She says: “I learnt driving 25 years ago. It was my son, Swaraj who is working in Dubai, who motivated me to become a ‘she taxi’ driver. Although most women drivers stopped their services due to lack of funds, I continued since it was a novel initiative to protect and empower women.” To revive the project, Jaicy along with her co-women drivers approached the officials concerned and put forward a proposal. 
The proposal also included the demand for a call centre to make the taxi service more effective. 

“We are ready to provide 24×7 service for women. Since April, we have been operating in the city to transport elderly patients to the hospitals and deliver medicines,” says Jaicy. Sheeja Prasanna Kumar, treasurer and coordinator of the She Taxi Owners’ and Drivers’ Federation says: “We have received an overwhelming response. Presently the team consists of women drivers who were present since the beginning and some others who have joined recently. We also got applications from women who were willing to learn and then drive. They are being trained.” The women drivers have been advised to take the necessary precautions and sanitise their vehicles after each trip.

Women drivers save the day
As many as eight women drivers are providing cab service in the city amid the lockdown. Sevices are being availed through the call centres

Survival kit
Prathidhwani, the welfare organisation of IT employees in Technopark, is giving away a ‘Covid-19 Survival Kit’ for the cab drivers and other daily wage labourers who lost jobs or are unemployed. The kit consists of essential groceries and vegetables worth `1,000. The organisation has distributed around 251 kits so far.

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– Source: Steni Simon – newindianexpress.com

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