Do not be surprised if you spot a lady driving an e-rickshaw, offering you a ride in the city.Dressed in a pink half-sleeve shirt over her saree, 45-year-old Sonalben Joddha, a resident of Asarwa, is a new driver who has come out of her societal norms. Her only aim is to afford education for her daughter.One of these days, you may spot her outside the Flower show organized by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) at Sabarmati riverfront, ferrying senior citizens.With a smile on her face, Sonalben’s enthusiasm is what attracts many. Quick enough to spot senior citizens and those who need help, Sonalben approaches them to offer a ride.She says, “I am connected with an NGO called ‘Sakhi group’ in the city and have been making ‘Kheechu’, a Gujarati dough used to make papad, since many years. Before six months, the NGO informed us that e-rickshaws are being given at low-interest rate along with training to promote greener city.””It was then I got interested and bought this rickshaw for Rs 96,000 on loan. We were given training and a license was issued. I was one of the 12 women who received this rickshaw and training from Ahmedabad.”The e-rickshaw has changed Sonalben’s life who used to earn Rs 3000 a month by stitching clothes. “Since five months, I have been driving this rickshaw and earn nearly Rs 1200 a day. It is a great relief to me as I am able to educate my daughter who is studying nursing.”Sonalben drives the rickshaw from Asarwa to Shahibaug from 10.00 to 4.00 pm after which she takes an hour break and resumes to her second job.”I make Kheechu in evenings and work till 9.00 pm every day.” My husband and my son also work. My son does two jobs but is not enough to run our family which is why we all are working hard.”When asked whether she faces any challenging incidents daily, she smiles and says, “Yes, I do. There are passengers who are very nice, whereas there are some who are not. I think I’m able to handle.”Speaking about the initiative, Shailendra Sharma, who has founded haalo.online along with his wife, Shagun, said: “Our initiative is women-driven GPRS enabled electric vehicles on rent that ensures a safe and clean system of transportation in city. To promote our aim, we have deployed two of our electric vehicle services to senior citizens for free at a flower show.”
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