Team CV

Outside Vashi station, the dark clouds are an indication of showers that could arrive anytime soon. It is an indication of monsoon arriving in this part of the country. It is almost the end of June, and the monsoon, like last year, has been late coming. An effect of global warming perhaps, one would wish the same rain pattern as last year does not repeat itself. Providing much needed respite from the humidity, the rains unleashed challenges like water logging in low lying areas among others that disrupted normal life. Living up to such challenges, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) as the prime public transport undertaking in the region, operating a total of 475 buses on 77 routes with some special services, has been successfully braving the odds. Doing a total route length of 1895 km, the average length being approximate 26 km (with maximum of 62 km and minimum of 3 km), and the average headway for all routes being 15 minutes (with maximum of 65 minutes and minimum of 7 to 10 minutes), the undertaking is making a mark by providing an opportunity to two women drivers, Yogita Bhaskar Mane and Chitra Ramrao Shelke.
The two have chosen to tread on a unique path, and be among the very few women bus drivers in the country. Expanding the list of abilities women can display, the two are breaking the gender stereotypes by proving their calibre and capabilities day-after-day. By opting for driving as a full-time profession, Mane and Shirke are ferrying people to their homes and places of work with impunity. The two are driving buses atleast 200 kms per day on Navi Mumbai roads. Hired under the Tejaswini bus scheme for women, Yogita and Chitra are proud of their achievements. They are also candid about the efforts they have taken to land this job. The two have near similar stories about the several issues they encountered initially. How they earned the respect of the people around them once their performance was evident. Hired under the Tejaswini bus scheme for women, the two lady drivers have been piloting the Eicher Skyline PRO midi-buses for NMMT. They are providing a safer and more comfortable commute for working women. Everything from the bus to the staff is adapted for women empowerment. The buses, built on the Eicher Skylie Pro City midi-bus platform, are so equipped.

Among the highlight of the bus platform is the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT). It eliminates the use of clutch and gear shifts. Providing a facility to over-ride in case of a need for more power and quickly to negotiate inclines, the AMT not only facilitates safer driving as the driver can concentrate on the road better, it also improves efficiency by getting rid of driveline friction and other energy loses. Speaking about the advantage of AMT and the routes they do in the Navi Mumbai region, Chitra and Yogita sound quite passionate about their jobs. They also sound very confident about their machines. The two ladies point at features such as the tilt and telescoping steering, roll down drive side window on the full length driver door and three-way adjustable driver seat. Of the opinion that the buses are comfortable to drive, the duo specifically mention the Hill Start Assist (HSA) feature.

Having being trained for three months on a vehicle with manual controls, Yogita and Chitra are aware of the technologies that set their machines apart from the large fleet of manual buses NMMT runs. The HSA feature, they state, makes it easier for them to tackle the numerous flyovers, stop and crawl traffic conditions, and inclines. Happy to be a part of the Tejaswini bus scheme, both Yogita and Chitra were extensively trained by Eicher to operate an AMT equipped bus. Setting an example, the two ladies are contributing to the safety of women. Mentioned Chitra, “We are happy to be able to contribute to the safety of women.” Making the most of the opportunities that would have until now been looked upon as a domain of men, Yogita and Chitra are also setting an example in the area of security. They take much pride in explaining that they are better able to respond to the needs of their commuters. “As women, we understand their need for safety and security better,” averred Yogita. Recreating and redefining what they can do and accomplish by taking on challenges that they previously were denied, the two ladies are setting an example that is certain to encourage others to follow them, gather the confidence to perform and sustain in professions like these.

Expressing a need for more such skilled drivers to enter the CV domain, B Srinivas, Sr. Vice President, BUS – Sales & Marketing, VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV), mentioned that there is an acute shortage of skilled drivers in the city bus segment especially. Stressing on the efforts VE Commercial vehicles is taking to build modern machines, which are providing just the right conditions for drivers like Chitra and Yogita to get behind the wheel, Srinivas said, “We trained the two so that they are able to perform at the best of their abilities.” He drew attention to the driver training initiatives VECV is taking in order to uplift the passenger transportation industry. VECV, explained Srinivas, intends to address the issue of manpower shortage and skill development through training and development initiatives, drivers’ welfare, and safety programs among others. Revealing that the lack of skilled drivers is a major concern for operators, including state transport undertakings, Srinivas informed that VECV has been regularly training drivers, and has trained around 2800 drivers till date. “Highlighting our commitment towards driver education and skill development, our driver training initiatives are helping generate employment. They are also helping drivers to overcome the skills gap required to obtain licenses to drive heavy commercial vehicles, widening the scope of opportunities available to them”, he said.

For Yogita and Chitra every day is turning out to be a new day. Every moment they spend on the job by leaving their house is adding to their experience and excitement. Not every experience may be good, but it is the good ones that are counting. It is them that are pushing them to get ahead in life. A life that is full of surprises and achievements.

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