With a large population belonging to middle and lower section of society, public transport is the primary mode of transportation in India. With better infrastructure there are lot of modes of public transport available like rickshaw, taxi, auto, metro, bus, local trains etc. People choose among these based on convenience or money. Even though these modes of transport provide a good way of communicating but there are certain disadvantages that come along.
Out of those using public modes of transport a large chunk belongs to female members of the society. Women in India nowadays do enjoy greater mobility, but this freedom to move comes at a cost, as they become much more vulnerable to unpleasant social, psychological, and physical experiences while travelling. Being rubbed up against, touched, and held by men are some fears with which women travel everyday using public transport. Vulnerability is one of the major issues for women in case of public transport.
Public transport like buses are considered economically viable way of travelling but a big question mark is- are they safe; especially for women? Personal modes like rickshaw, taxi and autos can still be considered a safer mode to travel. But in case of buses, metros and local trains where men and women in large amounts travel together it becomes very difficult to say if women can travel without a fear. Now and then we read or hear news about women being raped or harassed on buses or other forms of public transit. There are lot of unpleasant behaviours which women have to go through and bear. Some of the annoying behaviour or assaults which women go through are continuous staring, bad looks, winking, unnecessary touching, leaning over, pressing etc. The cases of rapes and assaults in public transport have increased tremendously. Who is responsible for this? Is it women whose dressing sense or travelling alone or late is being questioned about? Is it the Government or Police who are always blamed for not taking strict actions against such acts or providing better and safe mode of travel? Or is it just a result of some people being mentally sick?
It is often said that once safety is in once owns hand. Women do need to be conscious about how and when they travel. Self-safety and convenience should be considered as priorities. Women should be careful and avoid travelling alone especially at night time. Women should not suffer in silence and should be assertive about her safety. Any incident wherein women feel it is an unnecessary touch should be voiced rather than being quiet and not taking any action in response to the harassment. In cases where women keep quiet and don’t raise a voice gives the assaulters more confidence and freedom. Women should know that there is no harm in confronting. One of my friends always carried a safety pin while travelling in local buses just as a safety measure in times when somebody gets too close unnecessarily. Every women should take safety measures like carrying pins, pepper spray etc. With advancements in technology it is so easy to be in touch with a family member or friend so whenever women are travelling alone they should always make a call and inform which bus they have taken or mention about the auto number they have taken so that the probability of any mishap happening reduces. Self-defence and being cautious is the best way a women can handle and avoid situations of eve-teasing or so.
Government too have taken lot of measures to improve on the safety for female passengers. Installation of CCTVs and GPS in buses and auto rickshaws is one step which Government is trying to implement as a safety measure. Even though there are designated compartments or seats for females but they are not enough in number to accommodate the female population. Local police also play an important role in situations like these. Police or uniformed women police should be available for help in situations of need. Provision of helpline numbers have been made by Government, women should keep such numbers and make use of them in time of need. Government should convey a message in a really strong way that any form of sexual assault and violence against females will not be tolerated by having quick convictions and harsh punishments against assaulters. Focus should be there on preventive measures rather than focussing on what can be done after something has happened.
Even though India is considered men oriented country with the advent of 21st century women to an extent are treated equally. But certain sections of men still take women just a source of pleasure. Social crimes like rape, molestation, abuse towards women can only be stopped only when men start behaving and thinking morally. Men should start behaving in a more responsible way and not demeanour the self-respect of females. They should think that someday same kind of improper behaviour may take place with their friends or family members.
Being able to reach desired destinations safely and with comfort relates to economic security and well-being of a person. In no circumstances women should ignore her safety and give priority to convenience or money.