Come, ride in Rinku’s pink autorickshaw

Bhosari woman who is a commerce graduate, gets an autorickshaw driving license as well as the first pink autorickshaw meant for women drivers

Rinku Vasant Maske, 26, has cleared her Master of Commerce from Rajmata College with first class marks. But she has taken to an occupation which seems like a detour from her commerce education. Rinku is the first woman to get an autorickshaw driving license from the Pune Regional Transport Office (RTO) in February 2012. But she had to wait till 2015 to get her autorickshaw driver badge, which she got under the five per cent reservation for women autorickshaw drivers, declared by the state government in the same year.


Rinku Vasant Maske is the first woman autorickshaw driver from Pune to get her badge and the pink autorickshaw allotted to women autorickshaw drivers

As per RTO norms, pink coloured autorickshaws are for women, and Rinku recently got the first pink coloured autorickshaw, thus becoming the first woman autorickshaw driver in Pune city officially. She has broken new ground by entering a male-dominated occupation.

But Rinku has had a hard time getting here, as society is still not willing to accept a woman autorickshaw driver, especially in slum areas like Vitthalnagar in Bhosari. She has had to face criticism, rude comments and jokes, but she stood firm and overcame all these hurdles. Things have changed now and the same people who earlier passed comments, are now lauding her achievement.

Rinku lives in a 10 x 15 feet room in Vitthalnagar slum in Bhosari with her family. Her father Vasant used to drive a truck, but now runs a shop. Her brother Siddharth is also an autorickshaw driver. He is the one who taught her to drive.

She hails from Latur district in Marathwada region of Maharashtra and her grandfather shifted to Pune in 1972 owing to the drought back home. Her father Vasant started driving a truck to earn a living. “Driving is in our blood, and it helps us earn our livelihood. My father and brother both encouraged me to take up autorickshaw driving. There is no gender discrimination in our family. My parents never treated me like a girl but always encouraged us to do what we like,” she said. Since her family has been through many ups and downs she believed that driving an autorickshaw could be a great source of livelihood for her and her family. She was still studying when she started learning to drive. “Today women work alongside men in every field. Initially people were sceptical when I started driving an autorickshaw but I ignored them. My family stood by me so I never looked back,” she told us. With her family backing her she applied for a license at RTO, passed the exam and driving test. She is the first woman in Pune to get the license. Maske had to wait for her badge till 2015. It was through the governments five per cent reservation quota for women autorickshaw drivers, that she was able to get her badge. The RTO has made it a norm that women autorickshaw drivers must use a pink colour autorickshaw. She is the first woman to get the rickshaw and has recieved it just two days back. Currently her autorickshaw is undergoing the RTO registration process, and very soon it will be on the road. “I will give priority to the safety and comfort of my passengers. I will not refuse any fares and take passengers where they want to go. Women passengers will feel safe in my autorickshaw, and I hope I get a great response from passengers.

When a woman does something never done before, society tends to criticise and oppose us. But women should focus on what we want to do, and over time society will automatically realises the worth of what we do,” she said.


Originally published on The Golden Sparrow

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