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  • Writer's pictureReshma Jain

A true example of women’s empowerment

An auto driver by profession, V Vani Kumari hails from Visakhapatnam and has been fighting odds to prove herself strong. When she got married in the year 1992, little did she know that she will have an unhappy marriage. She was a victim of physical abuse, harassment, and domestic violence due to frequent fights over dowry. Three years passed on and Vani could not take it anymore. “We are four siblings and coming from a marginalized community, it was not possible for my parents to keep meeting dowry demands. I decided to fight for it or come out of it. Since matters were getting worse, I decided to move out of the house and not fall victim anymore,” shared Vani.

Vani who had studied till tenth standard had a one-year-old daughter when she left her husband. Vani wanted to raise her child in a healthy atmosphere and wanted her to lead a good life. Since she had no means to earn a living and did not want to depend on her parents, Vani thought the best thing is to learn a vehicle and use the skill to earn money. “I had no money to start a business. So, all that I could do was work on my skill and put it to best use. I went to driving classes, learned how to drive an auto and I was very happy when I got my driving license. In 1997, I applied for a loan under the Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana (PMRY). I was granted the loan and I took an auto on rent for a year. This job of ferrying passengers made me happy and satisfied and I decided to continue,” quipped Vani.

In 2002, Vani opted to train herself in driving heavy vehicles and undertook a six-month course (government bus training). She passed the course and also received the Heavy Motor Vehicle (HMV) license. She applied at a lot of places but unfortunately did not receive any job offers. “Although I was willing to take up heavy vehicle driving, I did not get any offer despite getting a license. There could be many reasons but one of them could be because I am a ‘woman’,” said 50-year-old Vani who again resumed auto driving.

“I also went to the then AP CM late Rajasekhara Reddy to express my concern of not getting a job. I met the CM and my application form was signed by him. I was asked to meet the RTO commissioner and the process was complete. I was said that I will receive a letter at my residential address and I was asked to wait. I returned to Vizag and I received a letter after 15 days. The government granted me permission to establish a driving school in the city. Owing to the expenses towards home and my child’s education, there was not much money I had to set up a driving school,” shared Vani who again plans to approach the present CM Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Vani who ferries people across areas of the city said that initially she was not accepted and appreciated as an auto driver. People mocked her and commented that she will not be able to continue this as her profession. “I challenged them and today, I am respected for my work. Most of my passengers feel safe driving with me and I have daily commuters,” said Vani.

Vani after completing her household chores, gets on duty from 9 am-1 pm and again from 4-7 pm. The most interesting part is Vani does not charge money for rides from disabled/old people and pregnant women. She expressed, “I don’t demand or charge money for such people. I feel service to mankind is service to God. Their blessing is all that I need and money cannot surpass it.

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