A woman boards a packed city bus at Kutchery Chowk in Ranchi on Monday. The ladies’ special bus has been off road for a month. Picture by Hardeep Singh
All good things have a shelf life. That of the ladies’ special city bus in Ranchi was roughly seven months.
The ambitious service, launched in October last year to spare women passengers the discomfort of being ogled at or even groped in crowded public transport, has remained dormant for the past one month now and has no hope of revival anytime soon.
Excuses vary from no women employees to run the lone bus, which used to do a dozen rounds of a 16km fixed route between 9am and 8pm every day, to a dwindling fleet that is disallowing exclusive service for the fair sex.
“The situation only exposes the lack of seriousness of the government in ensuring safety of women. It is worse that no organisation — or the women’s commission for that matter — is doing anything about it. The last month has been quite an ordeal. We don’t know how long we will have to use elbow jabs in packed buses,” said a student of St Xavier’s College.
Following the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012, the Union ministry of road transport and highways had directed its state wings in September last year to offer special commuting options to fair passengers. Then Jharkhand transport commissioner S.S. Meena was instrumental in making the ladies’ bus a reality.
Seven months down the line, JTDC managing director Sunil Kumar on Monday admitted that the service had stopped. “There are no women members of staff to run the bus,” he reasoned. When pointed out that the service could be resumed with a male driver and policewomen as escorts, he decided to clam up.
Manager Dhananjay Singh of ASK Security Services, the private partner of JTDC in Ranchi, conceded that he saw no future for the ladies’ special. “The service has been off for a month. But, we are helpless. We barely have a fleet of 40 and almost all the buses are rickety. It is not possible for us to spare one for women alone.”
Singh, however, contradicted Kumar and said there was no staff crunch. “We have women to run the special bus, but we do not have a bus for an exclusive service,” he reiterated.
Chairman of State Commission for Women Mahua Maji promised action. “No one has officially approached me on the withdrawal of the special bus. It is definitely a serious matter and I will speak to JTDC. There should be no problem in sparing one bus for women,” she said.
On October 4, the 29-seater bus was flagged off from Dhurwa. It boasted a woman conductor and three policewomen for extra cover. The extensive route covered Hinoo, Doranda, Sujata Chowk, Gossner College, Kantatoli Chowk, Jail Road, Kutchery Chowk, Karamtoli, Bariatu and Booty More in an hour. The footfall was 400 every day.
Enthused by its success, six pink auto-rickshaws with women drivers were launched by Rajmani Property Private Limited. While the private initiative is still benefiting fair commuters, the government one is in coma. As expected.