“A little delay in reaching home leaves my parents worried, nothing has changed over the years, from the school days till today, whether I have travelled by the school bus years ago or travelling in a public transport today. To reach by time and yet not get into trouble is the daily prayer of my mother sitting back at home,” says Madhu, who works in a private organisation in Guwahati.
This is the story of almost every girl using public transport, which is no less than a daily struggle. Women’s safety remains one of the major issues in a country like India, where the crime rate against them is considerably high and in many cases, the perpetrator goes unpunished and even not reported. Being groped or made to feel uncomfortable with stares or touch while travelling has become a very casual matter.
Varied initiatives are being taken across the country to reduce such uncomfortable situations faced by women while travelling.
For example, in Mumbai local trains or suburban commuter trains, there are designated compartments reserved for ladies. Also, there are special trains reserved particularly for women at the pick hours of the day when the number of women travelling on a daily basis is increasing and to provide them with a secured journey is a big question.
Buses in almost every part of the country have a row of seats only for women. Aligned with this security issue and comfortable journey, Nagaland has come up with the Pink Bus service for women. The service has been flagged off on September 17 and is a part of women welfare service.
Nagaland state transport has resumed the city bus service in September earlier this year, which was at a halt for a prolonged period. The abandoned buses have been refurbished and the service being re-installed as a strategy to transform mobility.
Auto-rickshaw, cycle-rickshaw and taxi are some of the common means of transportation in Nagaland. Dimapur is considered as one of the cheapest places as compared to the Kohima or other districts in Nagaland. But even in Dimapur transportation cost causes a menace to the pockets of the public.
A resident of Nagaland Toka V, while interacting with Northeast Today says, “Common people residing even in Dimapur spend maximum on transportation. The major means of transportation being auto, which is quite expensive, especially if it is hired and not shared.”
“Thus the resuming of the city bus service can help in cutting the daily expense of the public. Though keeping in mind the possible causes of the prior reason of the discontinuation of the service which possibly did not prove to be very smooth means of commutation and owing to less number of bus with more number of stoppages only caused delay for those who were travelling in a hurry,” says a local school teacher, wishing to be anonymous.
She further adds on, “The new pink bus service has fifty-fifty chances of surviving, as people are now already used to travel by their personal vehicles. Also, time is a factor everyone is in a hurry. Also, these new buses can be useful for those whom the fare becomes way too much.”
Constituting to be a part of the resumed city bus service, the Pink bus has been introduced in Dimapur and Kohima and two buses have been launched for a trial basis. For now, both the bus driver and the conductor will be male, but women folk will be invited sooner for such services. The fares will range from 10 rupees to 25 rupees, and the bus ferrying from Dimapur to Chaumoukedima will have 22 stoppage points. The timing would remain from 6 A.M in the morning to 6 P.M in the evening and will complete ten trips in a single day.
Scheme Under Blanket
But what can prove to be an advantageous scheme remains an initiative unknown to many. Pink Buses have fewer passengers than the other city buses (Green buses). The Green buses have a “100percent load factor” while the Pink ones are seen ferrying empty at times. The 32-seater buses have very scanty travellers until now of which the regular passengers are mostly college students or people in service. The increase in the number of passengers is seen primarily in the morning and the evening. Precisely the popularity of the service is yet to gain momentum.
“I think it is a good initiative by the government in providing separate transportation for womenfolk. In cities like Guwahati also, a separate row in the bus is reserved for women is reserved. However, this should not be viewed as segregation” states Toka V
“One of the major problems which the daily commuters face while travelling within the city is traffic and poor road condition. Especially for pregnant women and sick persons, such conditions can prove to be hazardous. With the growing population, which is a sad and inevitable part of city life, women face varied problems while travelling, when at times they have to squeeze in the auto among men, which is definitely not comfortable. And may often provide for situations of physical molestation and eve-teasing,” he further adds on.
And as I reach the conclusion of this report, I remember of a similar initiative introduced years back in Meghalaya, but which could not gain much popularity. Cabs in Shillong and whole of Meghalaya are the most widely used means of public transportation. In 2012 Pink Cabs were introduced in Shillong. These women exclusive cabs did not only failed to attract female drivers to take up the job, but passengers as well. Out of 100 permits, only three were filled and only a few have used it for the purpose it was actually meant for.
It can only be hoped that the pink colour doesn’t fade away, and the new step towards mobilization taken by NST proves to be an example to be adopted not only in the other districts but also by the other states.
(The article was published in Northeast Today)