Driven to despair, anger HT reporters take different modes of public transport to experience what a woman on the street has to face every day travelling in shared buses and autos and even an exclusive radio cab. Their conversations with the women on board further revealed what they face as a ‘routine matter’
Auto ride from Sector 26 to Housing Board traffic lights
I took an auto-rickshaw back home to Panchkula from Chandigarh’s Sector 26. I could not spot any auto with no co-passengers. The one I boarded already had two young men and a girl.
Since they occupied the seat, I sat on the extension behind the driver’s seat. I was trying to adjust my legs when I felt the men brushing against me repeatedly. Worse, the auto driver stopped to allow two more men on board. As I reminded him about overloading, he said I was free to get off. Soon, I could feel the driver’s back against mine, and as I leaned forward to avoid it, the youths on the seat threw the dirtiest of looks at me. To divert attention, I looked to the girl squeezed into the corner. We looked at each other, sharing thoughts. Finally my suffering came to an end as I reached my stop at the Housing Board lights.
The girl and I got down and started walking towards Panchkula. She told me she worked in a private firm in Sector 8, and how it was routine for her to travel in a shared auto. She explained how she had to listen to lewd comments and even got touched by men she had to travel with. In the past year, she had not seen anyone challaning autos for overloading.
On a bus Sector 22 to PGI
I thought of sitting on one of the first few seats that are reserved for women. However, seeing that men had occupied these, I asked the bus driver to get one of the seats vacated. All requests by the driver fell on deaf ears, and I had to stand in the crowded bus.
As the men started staring almost immediately, I looked away. Then I felt someone had gripped my hand. I was shocked, even though I had heard worse stories. It was the man standing next to me, pressing my hand with which I was holding the loop above to stand properly. I withdrew my hand and asked him to behave; he turned away. Probably finding my behaviour amusing, a few other men in the bus gave me mocking smiles. A girl standing next to me said this was routine and I should “let it go”. A student of MSc, she also told me that such things happen-ed often, and that shared autos were even worse.
Taking a Taxi from Panchkula to Chandigarh
I booked a private taxi from my home in Panckula to my office in Sector 17, Chandigarh. But when no one turned up at the appointed time, that was 4:30pm, I called the driver on the number provided by the booking staff. As I asked him when I could expect him to reach, he was rude and told me I should have called the booking agency instead: “I am on my way, and cannot fly.”
Angered, I disconnected and called the agency instead. While I was complaining about the driver, the taxi reached. It was already 4.50pm. Getting into the cab, I told the driver that I was supposed to reach Sector 17 at 5. He told me he would make me reach at ‘about the same time’. I decided not to argue. But when he got a call on his mobile, his reply was laced with the choicest of abuses in Punjabi. Since he was already driving fast, I remained quiet.
As the call ended, he started with his tale of how no one respected drivers. But as he braked hard suddenly, my head hit the front seat. The ordeal and his chatter went on. At Sector 17, I got down and called the agency again, telling them about the incident and asking for action. Till date, I haven’t heard back.
Public transport safe for women?
Change mindset, check overloading
Public transport needs to be made safer for women. Even before making changes in the system, the mindset of society needs to be changed. The UT administration should have special buses for women. Incidents have also been reported of women being harassed in autos. To check that, overloading should not be ignored.
AP Sanwaria, ex-councillor, Chandigarh
Most times, we just let it go
Public transport is a nightmare, particularly shared autos. There is no check on overloading and the drivers are rash. It is almost a routine to get commented upon. Sometimes we question those doing it, but most of the times we just let it go. It’s high time that a city like Chandigarh became safe for women.
Vijeta Manhas, MCom student, SGGS College-26, Chandigarh
I feel ashamed of my city
When I see men commenting at girls, as a resident of this city I want to hang my head in shame. It’s high time that men in general get sensitised, at least in an educated city like Chandigarh. There need to be special buses for girls, especially at night. There is almost no public transport available for those coming from the IT Park late at night.
Janam Brar, Panjab University recent passout
Need special buses for women
Public transport is not safe for women. Worst are shared autos, which are open from all sides. People stare at women as if they are from another planet. I dread going in shared autos all alone. The administration needs to intensify the checking of such public transport. More buses dedicated to women.
Jasleen Kaur, media student, Panjab University
Drivers must behave themselves
Though the administration has been quick in providing many buses, I wonder if they have ever checked the way the conductors and drivers behave. Worse are the drivers of shared autos. The city doesn’t need more buses or autos, but the administration must keep a check on behaviour of the drivers.
Manmeet Uppal, media student, Panjab University
Need security measures, strict action
Crime against women in public transport has become a bigger social problem, and there seems to be no end. Besides buses, the administration should start all-woman auto-rickshaws and taxis. If a crime is reported on such autos or taxis, driving licence of driver and registration of vehicle should be cancelled. Buses should have security cameras and emergency bell.
RK Garg, information activist, Chandigarh.