Siddhi Agrawal (name changed) has to travel from Sector 14 to Sector 30 in an autorickshaw quite often. The stretch that she takes for the journey is a straight road after Maharana Pratap Chowk.
Last week when Siddhi hired an autorickshaw, the driver, after crossing the chowk, diverted the vehicle towards Sector 17A Defence Colony. When she insisted that he take the main road, he said that auto drivers are often fined near the crossing and so he would take an alternative route.
“I told him either you stop the vehicle or I will jump out. But he laughed and kept driving. Left with no option, I jumped out of the moving auto. Surprisingly, he did not stop even then and drove away,” said Siddhi.
Siddhi is not the only woman commuter in the city who has a bad experience to share. Thousands of women here suffer every day due to unsafe public transport.
Though many modes of public transport are available, none have been regularised to provide a safe commuting option to women. Several measures have been taken to improve the situation and monitor the informal transport sector, but the efforts seem to be insufficient as women still feel unsafe travelling in the city.
The metro services in Gurgaon have a small network and is plagued by the absence of last-mile connectivity. Similarly, the autorickshaw sector is unregulated. Most of the autos are not registered and run without meter. Also, there is no official record of cycle rickshaws in the city.
Even private cabs, which were once considered a safe option, have fallen out of favour among women following some incidents of drivers allegedly sexually assaulting passengers.
“Earlier I used to book private cabs for travelling alone, especially at night. But now I have stopped using them. Despite the fact that these vehicles have GPS and other safety measures, I feel scared after reading about cases where drivers of such cabs have been found involved in sexual assault cases,” said Ankita Agrawal, an executive with a multinational company in Gurgaon.
The situation is no different in public buses. Women say they face harassment almost every day. Being ogled at and hearing lewd comments are very common, say women. College students, who use public transport vehicles every day, are among the worst sufferers.
“Our college is well connected by buses. But the buses are usually very crowded and some men just look for an opportunity to pass comments or even touch us,” said Viniti Yadav, a government college student.
Similarly, travelling in metros, both Rapid Metro and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, is not easy at night, say women. Even the ladies compartments are not safe then as many times drunken men enter them.
“These men try to intimidate female passengers by acting like hooligans. Sometimes, they even follow women after getting out of the station. Many a times, there are no women guards in ladies compartments or at stations,” said Pooja Mehra, a resident of Sector 30.
Women say last-mile connectivity is a major concern for them, especially at night. While the metro journey is safer, reaching home from the station is always a concern.
Also, the number of public transport vehicles reduces considerably at night.
Even the metro does not cover the city completely. The last Metro station in Gurgaon is Huda City Centre. Large parts of New Gurgaon and almost the entire Old Gurgaon is not covered by the metro service. Due to the absence of metro or bus connectivity in most areas of Gurgaon, women are dependent on autorickshaws and private buses.
When questioned about the poor state of public transport in Gurgaon, municipal commissioner Vikas Yadav said the administration is planning to expand the bus network in the city.
“We have submitted a plan for the expansion of the city bus network. We expect that the plan will be approved soon. We have proposed adding more buses to the existing fleet. Also, there are plans to ensure that buses ply till late at night,” said Yadav.
(With inputs from Isha Sahni)