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Friday, December 13, 2019

Delhi free bus rides for women: For thousands of marshals, Day 1 of a challenging job

The marshals, many of them in their early 20s, showed up well before the start of their scheduled work hours to get acquainted with their new workplaces and bosses.

Written by Ananya Tiwari | New Delhi | Updated: October 30, 2019 8:30:58 am
The presence of marshals was a reassuring sight for many women who have had bitter experiences in the past. (Express photo: Praveen Khanna)

Nearly every bus in Delhi had at least a man or a woman in khaki round the clock Tuesday, with the Delhi government deploying around 13,000 marshals to ensure women’s safety — up from the previously sanctioned strength of 3,400.

The marshals, many of them in their early 20s, showed up well before the start of their scheduled work hours to get acquainted with their new workplaces and bosses.

Sundar (21) was a marshal on board a bus plying between Nehru Place and Najafgarh. Son of a beldar and a housewife from UP’s Gorakhpur, Sundar said he is a graduate of DU’s School of Open Learning. “I’m not sure about my salary, but I’m quite excited about my first job. The CM said it is not just a job but public service,” he said. The marshals would be paid Rs 692 for each day they work at the end of the month.

Guddu Jha (32), who used to work as a delivery person with an e-commerce firm, said he feels good about the fact that his current job comes with a sense of permanence: “It is a contract job, but I feel I am associated with the Delhi government. We have been told to try and resolve issues politely at first, involve the police if needed and to use force in order to ensure safety of female passengers if nothing seems workable.”

The presence of marshals was also a reassuring sight for many women, who have had bitter experiences in the past.

Bharti Kumar (27), an employee at the Ministry of Home Affairs, who lives in Sagarpur and travels via RL 77 from Manglapuri to New Delhi Railway station, said, “If there is a lot of rush, men don’t pay attention, they just rush ahead. Maybe with these marshals, things will be safer.”

Meanwhile, authorities are gearing up for Wednesday when passenger volume is expected to be much higher, with people returning to work after an extended weekend.

The city’s bus count, at a little over 5,500, falls far short of the SC-mandated requirement of 11,000. The average daily ridership in buses, including those using monthly concessional passes, is around 42 lakh currently.

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