Delhi ups efforts to boost female staff in public transport workforce
Only around 1,900 (4.5%) of the 42,000-strong work force keeping the Capital’s network of public transport running -- both Metro and buses -- are women, showed data analysed by HT from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), even as the state government has stepped up its efforts to boost this number and bridge the gender divide in the workforce.
Experts said the number needs to improve significantly and called for measures to create a more conducive environment to facilitate a more balanced work force.
Delhi has the largest Metro network in the country and is also planning to increase its bus fleet to about 9,700 by 2023 end. Delhi currently has 6,894 buses, of which 3,761, including an electric bus, come under DTC and 3,133 under the cluster scheme.
Data showed that of the total 28,949 employees of the DTC, 28,149 (97.2%) are male and the remaining 800 (2.7%) are female. Moreover, the city has just one woman bus driver and 732 women conductors, which is 4.7% of the 15,433 bus conductors employed with the DTC.
Compared to the DTC, the DMRC fared marginally better as nearly 1,100 (7.8%) of its 14,000 employees are women. Of these, at least 115 are train operators, while 300 are engaged at the stations and trains in different capacities related to operations and maintenance.
At present, DMRC is operating a Metro network of 391km with 286 Metro stations. As part of its phase four expansion, DMRC is engaged in the construction of 65km of new lines across three different corridors.
Together the city’s state-run buses and the Delhi Metro carry about 6.9 million passengers daily, as per data from pre-Covid years until 2019. Of this, DTC and cluster buses together have a daily ridership of 4.2million, while the Delhi Metro carries about 2.7 million passengers every day.
To be sure, the Delhi government has taken up a slew of measures to include more women in public transport in the past six months. Last month, it decided to relax the norms to recruit female drivers for its buses, including reducing the minimum height needed from 159cm to 153cm and bringing down the “experience criteria” to a month for women applicants. It decided that women who qualify for the post of drivers will initially be deployed in low-floor buses. Besides, in another first, the Delhi government has also reserved 1,406 (33%) of the 4,261 new permits for new electric autos in the city exclusively for women.
Despite the relaxations, only over a dozen women have so far qualified to apply for the post of bus drivers in the past month. When it comes to e-auto permits, only about 800 applications for the 1,406 reserved permits for women have been received by the Delhi government so far.
But experts said merely reserving roles for women is not enough and urged the agencies concerned to also focus on creating the required infrastructure at their respective workplaces.
On August 10 last year, HT highlighted how the few women DTC employees avoid using the lone women’s toilet in bus depots as they are seldom cleaned and at times even used by their male counterparts.
“The transport sector remains highly male-dominant in India, and barring efforts undertaken by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), very few state transport agencies have invested in creating a conducive workplace environment for women’s entry and growth in public transport services,” said Amrita Gupta, director-research advocacy and communications at Azad Foundation, which trains women to drive commercial and transport vehicles and helps them get the necessary licenses from the transport authorities.
She added that ensuring a gender-sensitive infrastructure is very important for more women to consider such jobs. “Well-placed, separate washrooms for cis-women and trans-women with regular cleaning staff, fittings for disabled people, proper supply of water and soap, light in the toilets and the common area, dustbin for disposal of menstrual waste, separate lockers and changing/resting rooms for women to ensure privacy are the basics,” Gupta said.
Shreya Gadepalli, a noted transport expert and the managing trustee of the Urban Works Institute, said state transport utilities should also put in place a functional policy to address sexual harassment of women at workplace, adding that the names of the committee members should be clearly advertised at multiple places at every depot and bus terminal.
“More women in the workforce, especially as passenger-facing staff, encourage more women to use public transport services. However, transport undertakings must also ensure that the workplace is safe and conducive for women employees. This starts with basics like clean toilets at all offices and depots as well as safe and convenient transport from their home to the workplace,” Gadepalli said.
Transport minister Kailash Gahlot said the city administration is actively engaging with all the stakeholders and is including their suggestions as actionable points. “Delhi has come a long way when it comes to the role of women in public transport. We are already providing free bus rides to women in Delhi, but now our priority has also shifted to including more women in public transport operations. It is true that the numbers have been fairly low and the work conditions unfavourable in all these decades so far. But, under the guidance of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, we are changing all of that in Delhi and trying to set an example for all other states,” he said.
Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), DMRC said apart from train operations and station management, there are a number of women officials in senior management positions, as heads of department (HOD) and deputy HODs in the DMRC.
“Delhi Metro is an equal opportunity employer for all genders. There is no bar on entry of women candidates for any of our profiles and recruitment is done strictly on merit as per government rules and regulations without any gender bias. Our work spaces have separate toilets, changing rooms etc for women and all government guidelines regarding protection against harassment at work place are stringently followed,” Dayal said.
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