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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

EV adoption: Hope, opportunities for women, PwDs

The world is making a significant shift towards more sustainable and eco-friendly modes of transportation to combat climate change, and electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising solution.

Vikas Nimesh

Bibhudutta Sahu

Stand at any of the major junctions in Meghalaya, cast a cursory glance at the vehicles and you will come up with some very interesting insights for us to ponder on as a state. It has become common for both men and women to be seen behind the wheels of private vehicles including 2-wheelers driving around with equal amounts of gusto. But look a little closer and it would be a rarity for women to be seen behind the wheels of a public vehicle (rapido, taxi, bus or maxi-cab) that ply with high frequency on the roads of Shillong. It is perceived to be a predominantly male controlled sector. We are seeing advances in employment opportunities for women at petrol pump stations nowadays. At the same time, it is an even rarer sight if persons with disability are seen to be driving public vehicles or manning petrol pump stations. It is not a level playing field and therefore limits the opportunities of livelihood, innovation and entrepreneurship for a huge segment of the population in the state.  And yet is a growing playground that is readying itself for the convergence of transport, power and employability.

The world is making a significant shift towards more sustainable and eco-friendly modes of transportation to combat climate change, and electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a promising solution. Governments and private organisations around the world are actively promoting EV adoption and expanding charging infrastructure, and India is no exception. The Indian government has launched various policies and initiatives to promote EV adoption, including the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME I&II) India Scheme, which aims to encourage the manufacturing and adoption of EVs by providing financial incentives to buyers and address a niche portion of employment. It is also bridging the gap between being equipped with future technology skills and immediate job creations. The scheme has been extended several times and is currently in its second phase, which will continue until 2024.

Apart from the central government’s initiatives, several Northeastern states have also launched their EV policies to promote the use of EVs in the region. For example, Assam has launched the Electric Vehicle Policy 2021, which provides incentives for the purchase of electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers to encourage their use in the state. Similarly, Meghalaya has launched the Meghalaya State Electric Mobility Policy 2021, which aims to make the state a hub for EV manufacturing and deployment. Recently, Tripura has also joined the league by launching their state-level EV policy, thus contributing to the country’s overall efforts to adopt E-mobility.

CHALLENGES

The Electric Vehicle (EV) industry in India presents significant opportunities but marginalised communities, women, and differently abled people, face significant challenges. These challenges include a lack of access to resources such as capital and education, limited mobility and accessibility issues for differently abled people, and cultural and social barriers for women. There is a need to address these challenges by providing access to resources and training programmes, creating accessibility infrastructure, and promoting inclusivity and diversity. By doing so, the EV industry can become a more inclusive and diverse sector, benefiting not just these marginalised communities but the industry as a whole.

OPPORTUNITIES

There are many job opportunities associated with electric vehicles (EVs) and its associated infrastructure. For instance, using EVs as taxis can offer significant benefits in terms of the total cost of vehicle ownership. Additionally, the development of EV charging infrastructure creates opportunities at charging stations, which require minimal skills or training. These positions could be ideal for women and differently abled individuals seeking employment.

Furthermore, the establishment of EV charging infrastructure can generate additional businesses and markets around the charging stations, such as small cafes, restrooms, restaurants, and craft stores, which can provide further employment opportunities and help to create vibrant, sustainable communities. In North East India, where many tribal people have expertise in art and craft, the establishment of these businesses and markets can provide a better market for their products, improve tourism, and offer visitors a more authentic experience of the region’s cultural heritage. As a result, the growth of such businesses and markets can boost the overall tourist industry in the region, contributing to the economic development of the states.

In embracing the renewable energy revolution, in this case the EV transition, it is fertile ground for this platform to challenge existing social perceptions of gender-based employment as well as breaking the barriers of disability. It could very well be the power of  One Woman / Person with Disability who can be trailblazer for the state in the championing of a life with independence, opportunity and economic enterprise. A group of E-Champions would probably be the path for wider recognition as a state that backs up policy with plans and on-ground performance

STRATEGIES 

To prepare marginalised communities, women, and individuals with disabilities for opportunities in the EV industry, a range of targeted strategies is required to address the unique challenges they face. These strategies must include access to financing options that offer low-interest rates and minimal paperwork requirements. In addition, educational programs and resources should focus on building the necessary skills and knowledge required to excel in the EV industry. Outreach and awareness campaigns should be developed to promote the benefits of the EV industry while addressing specific challenges that these groups face.

Mentoring and networking opportunities can provide invaluable support for individuals looking to enter the EV industry, while advocacy and policy recommendations should focus on promoting inclusivity and diversity throughout the industry. By implementing these strategies, the EV industry can become more diverse and inclusive, benefiting marginalized communities, women, and individuals with disabilities, as well as the industry as a whole.

(The Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) is leading the charge in creating awareness about energy efficiency as a valuable resource in India. One of their key strategies is promoting electric mobility as a means of transitioning to a more climate-resilient and energy-secure future. To this end, AEEE has launched a project focused on the potential electrification of commercial and public transport fleets in the Northeastern region, with an emphasis on creating an inclusive mobility plan that engages marginalised communities, women and differently abled people. AEEE is supported in its local implementation by Barefoot Trust, an NGO working out of Meghalaya for enabling Imagi-Actions in Disability, Education and Sustainability.)

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