The Delhi transport department is set to deploy 13,000 bus marshals to ensure the safety of women inside cluster buses and those run by Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) Tuesday — the day free bus rides for women are supposed to start in the capital.
The initiative was launched by CM Arvind Kejriwal who, at an enrollment and gender sensitisation event at Thyagraj sports complex Monday, said: “Agar zaroorat padegi, agar kisi mahila ke saath koi kuch kare, gadbad hai, toh phir chorna mat, usko phir jo karna pade kar dena (If need be, if you come across anyone harassing a female passenger, then don’t spare them, do whatever you think is right).”
The bus marshals include civil defense volunteers, home guards and ex-servicemen. Around 3,400 marshals are already present in buses, but the plan is to have at least one at all times in each bus, as the new scheme rolls out. Both men and women will be part of the initiative, and will be paid Rs 682 per day.
There are 3,781 DTC and 1,808 cluster buses in the capital.
The Delhi government has set aside Rs 140 crore to implement the free bus rides for women scheme in the ongoing fiscal. Under it, the government will extend a reimbursement of Rs 10 per free commute by women, who will be handed pink tickets.
The government estimates that around 33% of the total bus ridership on a given day are made up of women. And of the 13,000 marshals, 10% are women.
Calling himself the “elder son” of Delhi, Kejriwal said it was his responsibility to take care of Delhi’s women, who “often don’t find themselves safe in public spaces.” “We, the people of Delhi, are like a big family. I am like the elder son of this family and it is my responsibility to take care of the needs of my family members. The thought about the safety of our sisters and mothers bothers me. Today, I am giving you (marshals) the responsibility to keep them safe,” Kejriwal said.
The Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi prepared the training module of the marshals, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said.
Neha, a Delhi civil-defense marshal assigned the Dilshad Garden route, said, “What I’ve seen is that women are not as open as men, and hesitate to say they are facing trouble. I have also experienced that men intrude into your space purposely on the bus.” Kalpana, posted on the same route, added, “Some women get off at an earlier stop, when they are harassed.”
Working eight-hour shifts, the marshals will keep an eye out for harassment of women and intervene. If matters get out of hand, they will dial police. NGOs Manas and Jagori worked with the marshals to train them on gender sensitisation. Jayashree, who works with Jagori, said, “We are working to change the mindset. A standard operating procedure has been issued, in which we prioritise helping women and aim for a non-vigilante mode of justice. We will also explain the laws and IPC sections to the marshals.”
More women travel by buses than any other form of public transport, Jayashree said.
At Monday’s event, a street play demonstrated the forms of harassment women face on buses, from unwelcome physical contact to passing comments.
Mohammad Aftab, a newly inducted marshal, said: “Once I saw a man harassing a college-goer. I went and stood between them. The feeling of relief and safety she felt was rewarding.”
Israil, another recruit, said, “Sometimes drunkards start passing inappropriate comments. Our job is to either remove them or, if things go bad, call the police.”
The amendment to the DTC (Free and Concessional Passes) Regulation, 1985, was approved late Monday and subsequently an order was issued. Last week, the Principal Secretary (Law) wrote to Gahlot, pointing out that the L-G’s sanction was needed before amending the regulations. However, the government discarded the opinion.