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When going home is an issue

On the night of December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist and her male friend had waited for nearly 20 minutes at the Munirka bus stop for a DTC bus. At Saket, where they had watched a movie, almost all auto drivers had refused to go to Dwarka. Faizan Haidar and Neelam Pandey report.

delhi Updated: Sep 13, 2013 03:48 IST

On the night of December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist and her male friend had waited for nearly 20 minutes at the Munirka bus stop for a DTC bus. At Saket, where they had watched a movie, almost all auto drivers had refused to go to Dwarka.

The couple's only option was to board a chartered bus to Dwarka. What happened aboard that bus shook the nation to its core.

At the root of the gang rape lay the lack of safe and adequate public transport facilities in the city. But have things changed since then? HT went for a spot check at many bus stops at night.

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From 9.45pm to 12.30 in the night, the HT team travelled over 70 km, visited areas such as Vinay Marg, INA, Chanakyapuri, Sarojini Nagar, Ring Road, Vasant Vihar, Lajpat Nagar, India Gate, Connaught Place, ITO and Mayur Vihar.

At most of these places, we did not spot even a single night bus, a promise made after the gang rape.

At 10.50pm, the Munirka bus stop, from where the victim and her friend had boarded the bus, was as deserted as ever. "I have to go to Dwarka Mor and have been waiting for bus number 764. It's been 25 minutes but the bus hasn't arrived yet," said Radhe Shyam, a resident of Dwarka Sector 6.

The bus finally came at 11:15pm and the reporters boarded the bus with the other passengers.

The lack of women passengers was not surprising. But the absence of home guards, another of the government's promises, in the bus certainly was shocking. "This bus is not on the night route, so there is no guard," justified the conductor. The move defies logic, especially since the bus begins its journey at 10.50pm from Nehru Place.

"I don't understand the logic of posting guards after 11pm. Women feel unsafe even at 8pm, so why wait till 11pm. The transport authority must have guards inside buses after dark," said Sandesh Singh, another Dwarka-bound passenger.

The night service of the DTC starts only at 9pm, a time when not many people, especially women, use the public transport.

And the problem is not just limited to buses. The autorickshaws fare no better despite their numbers having gone up in the city. Most of the drivers refuse passengers as they prefer going in one direction over the other.

That is why, it is not surprising that nearly 49% women claimed that they felt insecure using public transport in a perception survey released as part of the Human Development report 2013.

Delhi Metro, which has become the lifeline of the city, offers comfort and security, but it too isn't fool-proof. Last-mile connectivity is a big issue with women being forced to rely on their relatives to pick them up from the stations or rely on cycle rickshaws.