In the coming months, buses across the country will be fitted with panic buttons, CCTVs and GPS — an effort to make public transport safer for women in the wake of rising crime and violence against them.
It follows the government’s decision last month to make it mandatory for all mobile phones sold in India from 2017 to come with a panic button — activated by pressing a single key.
“We issued a draft notification on May 2 to amend the central motor vehicle rules, making the installation of safety devices (on buses) mandatory. We hope to finalise the notification by June,” road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said Wednesday, flagging off the first 20 buses — of the Rajasthan state transport fleet — as a pilot project.
The safety devices will be installed in all public buses in India with a carrying capacity of over 23 passengers.
A panic button will be placed in front of each seat. “If a woman in distress presses it, a signal will go to a centralised control room and help will be sent,” said a road ministry official.
The alert will be sent to both the transport department and police. The GPS system will help the response team track the vehicle’s location while the camera footage will help catch the perpetrators. Biometric details of all drivers and conductors will also be collected.
The project will be implemented in phases, ministry officials said. The cost will be split between the states and the Centre, the latter’s share coming from the Nirbhaya Fund — set up in 2013 in memory of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student who died after being brutally gang-raped inside a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012.
The assault had triggered mass protests across India, leading to an overhaul of its rape laws. But violence against women continues unabated.
“It is the states that must ensure the buses are equipped with these safety devices. The Centre will provide money from the Nirbhaya fund,” said the official.
This project improves upon a previous road ministry scheme that sought to improve public transport security in 32 towns with populations of over a million.