On Wednesday, a day when Ghaziabad hosted its first car-free day with the administration urging residents to commute by public transport, a 23-year-old woman was allegedly abducted in an autorickshaw around 8pm.
Dipti Sarna, an executive with the legal department of Snapdeal in Gurgaon, was returning home to Ghaziabad from work. She used to travel from Gurgaon to Vaishali in the metro. After getting off the metro in Vaishali, Sarna used to board an autorickshaw to go to Ghaziabad city bus stand, a distance of nearly 8 km. Her father would then pick her from there.
On Wednesday also, Sarna hired a shared autorickshaw. A woman passenger and three men were already sitting in the auto when Sarna boarded it.
“Near the Mohan Nagar intersection, the other woman was forced to get off and the driver fled with Sarna,” said Salman Patil, superintendent of police (city).
The police are still in the dark about the three men who were there in the auto with Sarna.
The incident once again brought to fore the problem of last-mile connectivity in the city.
With the penetration of Metro limited till Vaishali and lack of buses for intra-city movement, autos are the lifeline of daily commuters in Ghaziabad and Noida.
There are two kinds of autorickshaws available for Ghaziabad from the Vaishali Metro station—booked autos and shared autos.
Booked autos carry only one passenger and do not have fixed routes, but their fare is high. The shared autos carry more than three passengers on a fixed route but their fares are lower.
“On the one hand, the government urges residents to not commute by their own vehicle and use public transport. But on the other hand, no efforts are being made to make the public transport efficient. A woman feels the safest when she is in her car,” said Katyayini Singh, a resident of Vaishali who commutes to her office in Delhi’s Connaught Place.
Because of the poor last-mile connectivity, autorickshaws have become the cheapest and the closest-to-home travel option for women.
“Shared autorickshaws are better than buses because they drop you near your house and so women prefer them. But since the transport department do not carry out proper checks, many unauthorized and unverified auto drivers are there in the city,” said Rupika Chauhan, a resident of Raj Nagar.
Women say they agree that travelling by shared autorickshaws can be risky, but they have no option as they are the most easily available mode of transport.
“Commuting by shared autos at night is a nightmare for women. Autorickshaw drivers and passengers sitting in shared autos harass you even in broad daylight and there is nothing one can do about it,” said Mandavi Choudhary, a resident of Indirapuram, who regularly commutes by auto from the Vaishali Metro station.
Police officials said merely starting women-only autos in the city is not the solution to the problem as unverified drivers need to be checked.