MUMBAI: Meet 42-year-old city resident Laxmi Jadhav who has broken the glass ceiling to become the first woman who will drive a BrihanMumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) bus starting next week.
In a first for the century-old city transportation service, women will be employed to drive the buses and serve as conductors as well. BEST, however, will not be her employer; Jadhav is an employee of the contractor from whom BEST has leased some of its fleet, including the ‘mini’ and ‘midi’ Air-Conditioned (AC) and non-AC buses it operates.
At least two more women drivers are being trained by BEST to operate the buses.
Jadhav is likely to start on May 27 or 28, after Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra tourism and environment minister Aaditya Thackeray flag off the first ride. Jadhav will drive the bus route between Dharavi bus depot and south Mumbai.
“This is the first time in the history of BEST that women drivers will operate buses in the city. We will also introduce more women drivers in the coming months,” Lokesh Chandra, general manager, BEST, said.
The decision to introduce women as bus drivers and conductors was taken in January. They have been introduced under wet lease model, under which contractors paid per kilometre provide buses with staff. Around 70 women bus conductors will work in these buses and another 100 conductors may be introduced later.
The BEST presently has around 3,200 drivers and 4,100 conductors only on its payroll and a fleet size of nearly 3,500 buses (including those that are wet-leased). The organisation also operates ‘mini’ and ‘midi’ buses (the former has a seating capacity of 21 passengers, while the latter has a seating capacity of 25 passengers) on the wet lease model. Mahrashtra State Road Transportation Corporation, an autonomous body, employs women conductors — it has around 4,500 women conductors across Maharashtra on its payroll — but no woman driver.
BEST began operating buses in the city under the Bombay Municipal Corporation on August 7,1947.