A man is constantly brushing against a woman in a BEST bus. She protests and asks him to move, but he refuses. He tells to take a flight if she has a problem. She calls the bus conductor, he tells her to sort it herself. Finally, other women help and get the man to move.
This was what happened to Sangeeta Koganur, 42, two months ago on a bus from Andheri to Thane.
“I was shocked. The conductor asked me to sort the problem on my own,” said the teacher. “I now prefer to take a corner seat or stand in such a way that I am not bothered.”
Cramped buses give hooligans an easy chance to harass women and indifferent bus conductors guarantee that offenders never get into trouble.
A Hindustan Times-Akshara survey conducted in December 2011 on women safety revealed that most harassment takes place in buses and at bus stops. Off the 4,255 women interviewed, 46% said that they had been sexually harassed while travelling in buses and 23% faced harassment at bus stops. A year later, little has changed.
Most women complain that male passengers touch them inappropriately adding that men occupy seats reserved for women and those standing near these seats try to grope them.
“Once a man sitting beside me tried touching me. When I changed my seat, he followed me. I didn’t want to create a scene so I left the seat and stood up. Now, I avoid taking the bus alone,” said Upasana Sandip, a college student from Borivli.
Women also say that bus drivers don’t passengers enough time to board buses and men take advantage of the chaos while getting on to a bus.
“Men push and shove women passengers,” said Neeta Sukhatankar, 48, a housewife from Andheri.
AS Tamboli, BEST public relation officer said, “So far, BEST has not received a single sexual harassment complaint. However, if a woman passenger wants to file a complaint, the conductor is authorised to re-route the bus to nearest police station. CCTV cameras in buses can help nail culprits.”
Transport experts suggest special buses for women during peak hours.
“There are not enough reserved seats for women. We need to have more special buses for women in commercial zones,” said Ashok Datar, transport expert.