LAHORE - Several drivers of Pink Rickshaw Scheme are running from pillar to post to get compensation since they were given reconditioned three-wheelers by local automakers.

The women drivers complain that the manufacturer sold them overhauled electric rickshaws despite getting the payment for brand new autos.

Not enough, the local police are protecting the fraudsters instead of helping the poor women get justice and compensation.

The unique service had been launched in Lahore last year by The Environment Protection Foundation to empower deserving women in this male-dominated society.

Zar Aslam, president of the non-profit foundation, yesterday told The Nation that the police registered their FIR against two automakers after three months delay. “The officers deliberately delayed the registration of our case to help and protect the cheaters. Now, we are being told by the police that the accused persons have fled aboard. We are very much disappointed,” she said.

Aslam along with four women drivers continued protesting outside the office of the capital city police officer throughout the day on Thursday. Some police officers tried to convince the lady to leave the site but she continued the protest till evening.

Initially, at least six deserving ladies were selected and given pink rickshaws on easy installments. Aiming at providing a safe and sound traveling facility to the women of the metropolis, the pink rickshaws had been launched for female drivers in October.

One electric auto costs 300,000 rupees (about $3,000). Therefore, the project was launched with the sponsorship from private donors.

Zar Aslam said the local police officers were protecting the fraudsters who sold out faulty electric auto rickshaws under the Pink Rickshaw Scheme.

While referring to a woman driver she said, “these poor women are robbed by the local automakers but the police are backing them because they are influential.”

According to her, police officer DSP Imran Karamat had asked the victims that they would be paid back in case they would not file a fraud complaint against the manufacturers of electric rickshaws.

“Why did the police take three months to register our complaint?” she asked. She said they were running from pillar to post to get justice but nobody was interested to listen to the ordeal of poor women drivers.

She said that they had reported the matter to the federal investigation agency about the sudden disappearance of the accused persons but they were told that the accused are hiding somewhere in Pakistan. “What we should do now? Police say the cheaters have fled aboard and the FIA contradicts police claims. We don’t know who is speaking the truth”.

After being fed up with male drivers, she said, they had launched the campaign exclusively for women passengers and drivers in Lahore. Aslam says she had decided to introduce the “Pink Rickshaw” service in Lahore after she narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt by a rickshaw driver when she was a student.

The complaints of eve-teasing, and violence and sexual abuse of women are quite common in this society.

The lady, who has become a rolling stone after being cheated by some automakers, had introduced the idea last year saying “this is another step towards women's financial and professional empowerment.”

She said that the autos were leased out to the deserving females on easy installment and the women were taught driving as well. She also helped the lady drivers get their driving licences.

The scheme was introduced with massive media coverage last year as caravan of women’s drivers of pink rickshaws – both petrol and electric rickshaws, took out a rally on The Mall.

Nosheena Bibi, who drives a pink rickshaw in Lahore, said that it was a very good experience to drive pink rickshaw on city roads. “We came to know about the faulty rickshaws just three months after we got the autos. They are not new ones, they need further repair. We don’t have money for repairing”. She said that it was a revolutionary initiative but some automakers have destroyed their dreams.

When contacted, a police spokesperson said the police are investigating the matter.