From being teased, touched and threatened by the passengers to being traumatised and being taunted by co-workers, many of the 300 women conductors of Delhi Transport Corporation had been having a tough time in handling the jobs, they believed would provide them a ticket to empowerment.
These conductors, many in their early 20s are so scared of speaking up, that they only chose to speak on condition of anonymity to The Hindu. However, their tales tell the terror they live through each day.
One of them Reena Gupta (name changed) said: “All kinds of passengers board the DTC buses. Some are drunk, some ogle at me and try to sit or stand closer to my seat. Some rub their shoulders against or pass lewd remarks. Some even deliberately touch our hand while taking the ticket, stay for a couple of stops and get down.”
She recalled how one of the passengers once even threatened to call in his friends to teach her a lesson when she spurned his advances. “Some local goons do it regularly. Once when I protested on an indecent advance, a goon called up his friends from his mobile, mentioned the last stop and said, ‘ladki conductor hai, sab aa jao, ussey maza chakana hai aaj’ (there is a lady conductor, you all come, she is to be taught a lesson today). I got so scared that I took all his indecency in my stride. No crew member or passenger spoke up for me.”
Worse still, the uncivilised behaviour is not restricted to the male passengers. Neha Sardana, another ticket conductor, said: “In our offices, we don’t have separate washrooms, and so have to use the male toilets which is extremely embarrassing. To top it, some of our colleagues either prefer to stand close or sing lewd songs while we are going into or come out of the washrooms.”
“The reason is,” another conductor Sona Adhikari reasoned, was that “most of the staff comes from a background where women traditionally are domesticated or don’t work in male-dominated streams. For example, the driver of my bus once even asked me if I have chosen this profession, then would I be a ‘game to go out’ with them after the duty hours? It is humiliating,” she added.
“Not only that,” Bina Kumari, another conductor added, “most male drivers are arrogant and insensitive and would make personal remarks on how we should look. If any driver cooperates with us or speaks on our behalf, they are rumoured to be having an illegitimate relationship with us and thus become the butt of ridicule.”
R.S. Minhas, the Public Relation Officer, DTC responded: “These complaints of indecent behaviour by the drivers and the staff have not reached us. If they had, we have punishment procedures through three codes of conduct to deal with them. In minor penalty we take corrective measures, in which we advise, reprimand or serve a show cause notice; in major penalty we stop the increments or rewards; and in the capital punishment we terminate the services.”