Miscreants resort to nudging, falling, touching, staring and pressing to harass women while travelling in buses. For thousands of women who travel by public transportation every day, it’s literally a battleground. Faced with apathetic commuters, bus conductors and drivers who refuse to do anything, women have either learnt to master the art of ignoring or walk around armed with chilli powder.
Varsha S, a city-based content writer recounted her worst experience. “I was travelling from Majestic bus station to Indiranagar when a man came and sat next to me. Under the pretext of being fast asleep, he continued to put his hand on my thigh and no matter how many times I pushed his hand away, he kept putting his hand on my thigh. It got so bad, that I decided to complain to the bus conductor. Instead of throwing the man out, he asked me to leave the bus as I was making a scene. I felt so humiliated.”
While many passengers complain to bus conductors, often the conductors themselves are at fault. Alexandra Simon, a student, recounted how she was sexually abused by a conductor when she took a bus to her college. “It was a crowded bus. Once the conductor had finished issuing tickets, he came and stood behind me. The bus was packed and I wasn’t sure if he was there for a reason. Maybe he was issuing tickets. But after some time he turned towards me and pressed himself against my back. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I gathered the courage to just walk away from him. I went and stood near the boys because I actually felt safer there. The conductor would not dare try anything like this among the boys,” she said.
But not all women have bad experiences in the city. Cassandra (name changed), who works in corporate communication, said the situation in Bangalore is far better compared with other cities she lived in. “There is clear demarcation in the city buses where men and women have to sit and there have been instances of conductors taking up complaints made by women. In fact, compared with cities like Delhi, I feel far safer here,” she said.
Following protests after the recent rape in Delhi, the BMTC announced that cameras and GPS facilities would be installed in buses. The corporation hopes that these installations will deter people who attempt to abuse women and think they can get away with it.
Meanwhile, travelling at night continues to be a problem for women. Especially with regard to accessing bus stops. Women have complained of being followed on their way to bus stops, abused in private buses or autos which they are forced to take when there are no BMTC buses.
Taking cognizance of this, the BMTC has planned to properly enforce night services and monitor them. The BMTC currently has 68 schedules to various parts of the city. However, women do not often rely on them because they are not regular and there are no guarantees of actually getting a bus.
This is the first issue that the BMTC plans to tackle, according to N Nagaraj, chief traffic manager (operations). “We will soon be regularising night services. The services will be monitored by traffic controllers at Kempegowda Bus Station (KBS). The services will continue till 12 midnight and from 3 am to 6 am for those who have to travel during this time,” he said.
He said initially the services will begin from KBS to various areas in the city. “We will put up notice boards in the bus stops informing passengers of the buses available to various places and the frequency and approximate time of their arrival and departure. By regularising the services, women can be sure that there will be a bus at that time and do not have to wait unnecessarily. Later, the services will be extended to City Market and Shivajinagar.”