Your Space: Public transport safety norms

The recent two incidents of kidnap-rape of minor by autorickshaw drivers in Pune have exposed the security measures in place at public areas.
The recent two incidents of kidnap-rape of minor by autorickshaw drivers in Pune have exposed the security measures in place at public areas. (HT PHOTO)
The recent two incidents of kidnap-rape of minor by autorickshaw drivers in Pune have exposed the security measures in place at public areas. (HT PHOTO)
Published on Sep 18, 2021 05:29 PM IST
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ByPrachi Bari

The recent two incidents of kidnap-rape of minor by autorickshaw drivers have exposed the security measures in place at public areas. Even as the Pune police and RTO have taken steps to penalise rickshaw drivers for various violations, it is a step taken as an afterthought. Readers share steps that could be taken to gender sensitise rickshaw drivers and better public transport safety norms.

Let her travel safely 24x7

If India is to attain real gender equality, then we must ensure that Indian women and girls are able to travel safely and easily 24x7 to the destination of their choice, at par with Indian males. Thus, ensuring safe public transportation is a step towards gender equality, enhancing their ability to participate in educational, professional, and social activities and overall improved participation of women and girls in public life. After the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012, the subject of women’s safety especially in public transport came in the forefront. Justice Verma Committee was constituted to investigate the women’s safety issues. The committee was assisted by a team of young lawyers, law students and academics. The committee has submitted its report in 2013 itself, but unfortunately many recommendations of the committee have not been implemented even till date.

Proactive approach can play a huge difference in reducing social and heinous crimes like rape and sexual harassment of women and girls. Checking of documents, imposing fines on autorickshaw drivers form part of the ‘reactive approach’, are important, have disciplinary impact which unfortunately fades away over a period if not implemented continuously. A multi-disciplinary approach must be implemented. Social and reformative actions to deal with the core of social norms and values of the people engaged in plying autorickshaws and similar public transport modes is the need of the hour. Providing safe transport environment to women is directly linked with attaining gender equality guaranteed in the Constitution of India. Every autorickshaw driver and staff employed in public transport system must mandatorily be required to undergo a one full day workshop on gender sensitisation and related subjects every year, wherein character checks become an integral part. Education on women related laws and punishments for violations must become part of such workshops. Such workshops can also help in developing common database of autorickshaw drivers and other public transport operators. Such workshops must be held round the year at all districts across India. A ‘Women Transport Commission’ must be constituted, and such workshops and the system can be implemented through such a commission, which may work under the ministry of women and child development. Police system alone cannot deal with the subject. The police mechanism can on the other side work on the disciplinary and punitive approach. Government must significantly invest in public transport which leads to offering safe and convenient transport system for women, thereby reducing their dependence on private modes and autorickshaws. Today women are forced to travel by overcrowded buses which is very unpleasant for them. Police patrolling and vigilance through CCTV should be increased at isolated spots. Sexual harassment mostly happens at crowed places or isolated spots.

Satya Muley

Issue driver’s licence only after sensitisation programme

The basic reason for this crime is lack of understanding of law, education and value building. A study of rickshaw, cab and truck drivers has found that most of them are Class 10th pass being given commercial licence. If the government authorities have made Class 10 as mandatory qualification for driving public transport vehicles, a training class also should be made compulsory for them. In Germany, one need professional qualification or certification as basic requirement for starting any business and drivers have to undergo compulsory 15-day orientation based on value building and ethical way of doing business and financial understanding. The country also rewards those who carry out work earnestly and honestly. India should also formulate such programmes for those starting businesses and in service sector. Background verification of those who are given driver’s licence should be done like it is carried out for issuing passport. A guarantor should be taken for commercial licence basically a indemnifier who is responsible for the behaviour of the person could be another way of looking at it. While these steps will be strict, it needs to be implemented to check these kinds of crime. Generally, autorickshaw drivers face a lot of public criticism because of their work style. CCTV camera surveillance on major roads will help keep a check of their activities. A 24x7 helpline facility like ambulance could be introduced for public transport where a distressed passenger can seek assistance.

Sachin Bendre

PMPML in bad shape for a reason

Policy makers have intentionally kept public transport utility Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) an underdeveloped public asset for decades to aid the auto, petroleum and ancillary industries. This has sabotaged PMPML being the safest primary choice of intracity transport for the masses. Mismanagement in operations of PMPML have run it into losses. This has resulted in poorly maintained buses with no comfort or security systems, features commonly found today across the globe in other developing countries like India.

Pushkar Kulkarni

Overhaul public transport system

Women who use public transport feel exposed to physical or verbal aggression, sexual harassment and other forms of violence or unwelcome behaviour. It is an issue that has ripple effects that can last a lifetime, not only for the person impacted but for families and communities. The painful truth is that our community are not immune to these societal problems. Technology can help law enforcement to investigate reports of crime, and hold people accountable for their behaviour. All trips arranged in-app GPS tracking for every trip means that there is a record for the exact time and location of trips - providing accurate, objective information. Team of law enforcement professionals who are on call to work with police 24/7 to respond to urgent needs. For this we need cooperation among stakeholders, education and training of transport employees, increasing public awareness, and the use of digital technology.

Vaishali Patkar

Promote women autorickshaw drivers

Promote women autorickshaw drivers. An OTP-based app by road transport office (RTO)/Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) where a user input autorickshaw registration number and the OTP will be approved by passenger and autorickshaw owner to monitor start and end journey. Compulsory SOS system in such public transport facility should also be put in place.

Bhushan Chincholkar

Self-defence is only solution

Women drivers can help in empowerment too. There is a need for more security cameras, and strict actions against offences, even minor ones. There should be an open data on rickshaw registration number to check details before boarding an auto. The drivers should have training and orientation before giving and renewing auto licence. Also, the authorities should look at increasing bus frequency. It will also help if we had some basic martial arts training and safety moves training for children and working women. The last one here is not for victim blaming but to put auto drivers on guard, something similar to gun philosophy in the US, not trusting anyone and focusing on self-defence. Subversion of women is not given importance even by women, let alone men, in our Indian society. Except may be for a few thinkers. I am not really sure what the solution can be. Education to some extent, but just that won’t be enough.

Aditi Kale

Punish the guilty

The kidnap-rape cases of minors are a matter of grave concern. Pune was considered safe for women. The need of the hour is “safe” Pune and not “smart” Pune .The ones in power - the politicians, the police and the judiciary - needs to raise above politics and religion and ensure that the guilty are not be spared. Justice delayed is justice denied. The punishment should be swift and severe. All autorickshaw and taxi unions should themselves have a system to verify the credentials of their members and a set of guidelines.

Maithily Manekwad.

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Friday, December 03, 2021