Many commuters point out that public transport is one area where a lot of attention needs to paid as the buses and trains in the city are often not safe, especially if they are crowded.
K. Veena (name changed), a college student, was pinched while travelling in a Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) Limited bus two years back.
It is an experience she has not forgotten and to this day, she would rather not get into a crowded bus and if she has to, will stand near the conductor’s seat. In the wake of the Delhi gang rape incident and a few such instances in the State, the government proposed a slew of measures to enhance safety of women. However, many commuters point out that public transport is one area where a lot of attention needs to paid as the buses and trains in the city are often not safe, especially if they are crowded.
“Male commuters block the entrance of buses and sometimes, occupy seats reserved for women,” said Sudha, a former Railway finance official, describing perhaps the most common forms of harassment. Shanthi Edwin, treasurer of Makkal Nala Membattu Sangam (slum women confederation), who commutes between Ramapuram and Perambur, agreed. “Women are harassed in buses by men, both young and old. They brush their bodies against women and harass us in other ways,” she added.
Sujata Mody, president, Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, said that the design of public transport and spaces was in itself flawed. “Many women feel that suburban and MRTS railway stations are unsafe. There is no proper lighting and many of them look very dangerous,” said Ms. Sujata.
Often, male relatives have to wait at the station to accompany women home. In this context, CCTV cameras can come later, she felt. “Let us have proper lighting first,” she said. Women also feel uncomfortable on trains when men enter women’s compartments.
“The problem worsens after 8 p.m. Women constables are rarely present,” said S. Suganthi, a commuter. She recalled an incident when an inebriated man got into a women’s compartment last month. She tried calling the police helpline number that is prominently displayed in many trains. “But no one responded. What is use of advertising helplines then,” she wondered.
Women commuters felt that more women’s special buses can help. “The presence of women constables in uniform in buses will also deter miscreants,” said Ms. Sudha.