Women’s safety and transportation

Dear Editor,
While celebration of freedom and liberty was high in the national capital, Arunachal, in the distant corner of India was experiencing a horror. The long journey home for three women from Guwahati to Arunachal was a nightmare. Just as many of you, I too was irked by the unfortunate ordeal, which happened to the women on 11th August.
The incident made me feel disgusted because I as a woman, could reconcile with the emotional upheaval that my friend and her companions had undergone, as I was also travelling by Sahara cab yesterday. (This Sahara cab service is the only cab service).
It’s a tedious ten- hour journey and most of us travel alone at night, to and fro. Having no luxury to choose between an Uber and Ola unlike the metro cities, we have no option than to rely on this only cab service. Although concerned about my safety, given the hours and the infamous route, I was comforted by the presence of three other female passengers, as told by my cab driver. But when the driver turned up, we were only two female passengers, including me! My family was reluctant and questioned him and he responded that the others had cancelled. Now I had no choice and it was 3 am and the ride was unavoidable. We were awake and alert the whole night, engaging in a loud conversation or making endless phone calls at home. The driver stopped later for breakfast at a hotel after three-four hours of drive, there were number of other cabs also stationed there. As I got out of my cab, I heard a commotion. There were two young girls, I reckon college going young women, who at the pitch of their voice were screaming. On enquiry, they told me that they were molested by the driver named Nath. They were the only two passengers in the cab.
I was just wondering, how similar our experience were; two young women travelling at odd hours, it just happened to turn out that they were the unfortunate ones. The driver, on the pretext of putting them seat belt and changing gears, touched them repeatedly on their thighs and knees. Both of them were molested, one after another, even after they had switched their seats. My first reaction here was to look for a police patrol car or dial 100 number, but all in vain. On seeing how helpless these girls were, I intervened and I told the driver that I was going to call the police, he nonchalantly said, “Jo karna hain karlo!”. This thug like attitude is common to passengers travelling at night, since we do not have any other choice.
This incident and the one from 11th August reemphasizes on our safety- women’s safety. All of us take this route; young, adults, school going, college and every one else. We travel at night, dark and unaccompanied. These incidents are scary and should be condemned. But what if we are too late, as they say, “Prevention is better than cure”, the civil society and the Government must take cognizance of this matter and provide an answer to it soon. Lest we regret tomorrow.
Besides the safety issue, these events also raise some significant questions; on the Monopoly of the Bipul’s Sahara cab agency and not being monitored, having no tracking services, no driver’s background checks, the passenger’s safety is often at stake.
The absence of police patrolling vehicles in the infamous highway is of another concern and the delay of the Airport in Arunachal. It’s been a long wait and I am wondering how long will we have to wait? I am not suggesting that having an Airport will solve this menace but at least the journey home from Assam can be shorter and safer relatively.
Ngurang Reena
Research Scholar,
JNU, Delhi