Lonely Planet Writer

Women travellers get new mobile app to hail safe ‘pink auto-rickshaws’ in India

While India is statistically a very safe destination, female travellers sometimes think twice about visiting, put off by tales of harassment and assaults. After a number of high-profile incidents in the last few years, safety for women is back at the top of the political agenda in India, and dozens of schemes have been set up to alter the perception that India is a risky destination for women.

A 'women only' taxi service in New Delhi, India
Geeta Kumari, driving her ‘ women only ‘ taxi , a service run by Sakha Consulting Wings in New Delhi. Image by: Graham Crouch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In fact, India has a long history of public programmes designed to make travel safer for women. Women-only carriages have been used on suburban trains in Mumbai since 1992, and whole trains set aside for women started service in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in 2009. Attention is now turning to taxis and auto-rickshaws, where female passengers are more likely to be alone with just a driver.

Launched by the charitable Azad Foundation, the Women on Wheels project has trained dozens of Indian women as taxi drivers, providing a safe chauffeur service for female travellers in Delhi, Jaipur, Indore and Kolkata. Pink Autos – auto-rickshaws driven by and reserved for – women  have since sprung up in cities across Indian, including Delhi, Mumbai and Surat.

Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte in a 'Women on Wheels' cab in New Delhi, 2015
The Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte waves as he rides with Indian cab driver Shanti Devi Sharma during an event to promote the ‘Women on Wheels’ cabs for woman company in New Delhi on 5 June 2015. Image by: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

However, the problem for many women has been finding one of these women-only vehicles in the traffic-jammed streets of India’s major cities. TYGR, India’s fast expanding multi-transport-booking app, now hopes to solve this, with integrated booking for pink taxis and autos reserved for women. Ranchi in Jharkhand is the launch city for booking pink autos by mobile phone, and there are plans to expand the scheme to all the cities where TYGR is operating.