Nearly four lakh — or close to one-fourth — of women commuters have suffered harassment while travelling on Mumbai’s local trains or at train stations, according to a gender-equality survey by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) for the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), a body that works on improving suburban railway services.
Of the 72 lakh people who travel daily on both the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR), over 16 lakh (22%) are women — 8.58 lakh on CR and 7.5 lakh on WR.
The TISS report, submitted to MRVC last week, revealed that 23.5% of women commuters have been harassed in local trains or at train stations. Another 76.3% said they have never faced harassment and 0.2% didn’t comment. Around 1,000 women were interviewed for the survey, including 500 who travel on Western Railway, 300 who travel on the Central Railway’s main line and 200 who use the harbour line.
With the number of women in the workforce increasing all the time, the number who are harassed is likely to go up manifold in the coming years, the survey stated. It also revealed that about 75% of women commuters are unaware of railway helpline numbers, which means that many incidents probably go unreported.
MRVC will share the findings of the survey with both zonal railways to find solutions. “We will work on the infrastructure-related suggestions in the report to make commuting safer and more convenient for women,” said Prabhat Sahai, chairman and managing director of MRVC.
Dr AL Sharada, director of Population First, said, “These statistics are disturbing. Apart from increasing policing in women’s compartments and stations, the railways should use technology like CCTV cameras at crowded locations to instill some fear in offenders.”
Activists demanded a centralised complaints system for women and stringent action against offenders. “The police should deal with complaints about women being harassed with more sensitively. Both the railway protection force (RPF) and government railway police (GRPF) should coordinate with each other efficiently when dealing with thos,” said Nandita Shah, co-director of Akshara, a resource centre for women.
The survey also highlighted other problems women commuters face, such as a shortage of seats, little leg room, and poor lighting at stations. It revealed that 68% of women commuters don’t have a seat during peak hours, and 54% during off-peak hours.
HT has been reporting consistently about the harassment of women on public transport. In 2012, the railways was forced to deploy additional security on the harbour line after our report revealed that many women are harassed late at night on the harbour line.
Railway police working on new safety app
Unhappy with the railways’ mobile security app, the railway police are developing one of their own. According to the police, the new app will allow women to alert the police control room by simply shaking their phones or pressing the power button four times. It will also allow users to send audio and video from their location.