Private buses have become one of the most unsafe modes of public transport in the city for women. The case of two men who molested a 23-year-old woman on a private bus here on Tuesday afternoon brought to light the abuse that many girls and women face daily when they commute in a private bus.
“I try to leave college before 4.30 p.m. The buses get crowded after that and there is a greater risk of getting groped in a crowd,” said a college student who takes a private bus to and from her house at Kakkanad and college near Menaka every day.
The lack of a crowd, however, did not help the young woman who was molested when she was on her way from Aluva. There were few people in the bus she was travelling on. The bus conductor, who was the son of the bus owner, and another person, sat in the seat behind hers when the bus reached Kalamassery. The two men allegedly groped her repeatedly till the bus reached Menaka and the girl stood up to complain to the bus driver. The men ran out of the bus to escape when the bus slowed down. The police have arrested Dileep, who was the conductor of the bus. “We will write to the Regional Transport Officer to make a list of bus crew to help identify them,” said Assistant Commissioner Suneesh Babu D.S. “We will ask them to ensure that only licensed crew work in buses. They will have to wear uniforms that help identify them easily. In this case, the owner’s son simply stepped in as a conductor,” he said. Police officers said this was one of the first cases of women being molested on a bus in broad daylight to come up before the city police.
However, women in the city said most cases of molestation in private buses went unreported. School girls and college students are especially vulnerable to being groped or pinched in a bus.
“Many of my friends have had similar experiences. But they almost never react because they are afraid of how people around them will respond. Being molested is very traumatic and your courage will drain away and you are simply unable to react,” said a college student in the city. K.M. Sivaraman, principal of Government Girls’ High School, Ernakulam, said he had received a few complaints from students about harassment in private buses. “We forwarded these to the police but nothing has come out of it. Harassment in private buses is more common than is reported,” he said.
Women’s Commission member Lissy Jose said the commission had been conducting awareness programmes in schools and colleges to encourage students to report and react to molestation.
“Molesters are banking on the fact that most girls and women stay silent. These incidents can be curbed if a few people come forward to report such crimes,” she said.