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Chennai’s auto driver, Raji Ashok, never refuses women passengers; gives free rides to students and senior citizens

Raji Ashok aka Auto Akka who encourages women and teaches them driving to become auto drivers and earn better remuneration

For the women and elderly commuters in Chennai, autorickshaw driver, P.V. Raji Ashok is the God sent angel. The reason being, Ashok, who is fondly called as Auto Akka (sister) never refuses women passengers, while offering free rides to the senior citizens.

Speaking to Better India, she said: “Whether it is the middle of the night or an insufferably hot afternoon, I never refuse a ride to a woman. Even after my 8-9 hour shift has ended, I get many calls from women to go to Chennai airport, or from women working late shifts. I accept all the requests. My only condition is that they book the ride at least one hour in advance so I can schedule them.”

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Akka, who is 50-year-old, has been ferrying passengers safely for the last 23 years, working  9-hours a day, which many times gets extended, in case there are those who need urgent transport. She not only offers free rides to young kids, senior citizens but also those women who may not have the fare to pay. She doesn’t charge rides to the hospital in case of emergencies. Even in wee hours, she doesn’t hesitate to assist women, if they give her a head’s up of an hour.

In a day she completes 30 trips or more and earns between Rs 30,000-40,000 a month.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Raji who is originally from Palakkad, Kerala, following her marriage to Ashok, an auto-driver, moved to Coimbatore, where she worked as an accountant. After the Coimbatore blasts in 1998, the two shifted to Chennai, where she was unable to get a job despite her degree and experience. “I could not find a job despite my qualifications and experience. After several failed interviews, I decided to start driving an auto for a living just like my husband,” she shared with the media.

She feels that driving an auto is a good employment option for women as they can earn better than working as a domestic help. “I also give free auto driving lessons to women interested in joining this profession. This is a great occupation for women, and I want to encourage more ladies to drive autos professionally,” she said.

Also read: UP Police Honours Bundelkhand’s First Woman Auto Driver