Riya Khanna (name changed) has stopped travelling in shared auto-rickshaws. Recently, she was molested by a fellow commuter while on her way to work. But what annoyed her the most was the behaviour of other passengers. They did not react and Khanna had to fight her own battle.
"I felt numb when no one reacted. I couldn’t move for a second. That was the last day I travelled in a shared auto-rickshaw," says Khanna.
She is not alone.Women commuters in Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad have had similar experiences.
These auto-rickshaw drivers force around 11 people to adjust in space meant for five people. "The drivers will not leave till the time their auto-rickshaw is over-loaded. In order to make money, they risk the lives of commuters by driving callously through narrow lanes of the city," says Rupa Malhotra, a commuter.
Unlike Delhi, fare meters are not installed in shared autos, due to which they charge exorbitantly.
Seven security guards have been deployed at every Metro station in Noida to ensure safety of women. However, nothing has changed. Women commuters feel unsafe even during the day.
"The number of auto-rickshaw drivers outside metro stations is far more than the security guards deployed. Every girl is surrounded by these auto drivers and harrassed," said Vanshika Kumar, another commuter.
"We carry out regular drives to keep a check on these auto drivers. On Tuesday, we seized 21 auto-rickshaws that were found flouting rules," said Rajesh Singh, Assistant Regional Transport Officer (ARTO), Gautam Budh Nagar.
The situation is no different in Ghaziabad. A major housing hub, the city lacks a dedicated internal transport system. Cases of chain-snatching, eve-teasing, robbery and rape have been reported in the recent past.
In March 2013, a 19-year-old woman was picked up by three auto-drivers, who later raped her at Galand area near NH-24. Apart from heinous crimes, women commuters lodge frequent complaints of robbery, thefts and harassment by auto-drivers.