SRINAGAR: In absence of a comfortable bus service for women in the summer capital, Faiqa Farooq, a 2nd year student at Government College for Women M A Road, had to face huge inconvenience daily.
She says she often faced eve teasing and sexual harassment in public transport.
However, with the launch of first-of-its-kind Extensive Ladies Special Bus Services in Srinagar, things will certainly change for Faiqa and thousands of other women who have been facing inconvenience.
The service was inaugurated by the divisional commissioner Kashmir on Tuesday. The service would run in Srinagar city from 8 am to 6 pm daily.
In its initial phases, the service will be provided by Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) and some private transporters on various routes including Lal Chowk- Hazratbal, Lal Chowk- Soura, and Nowgam Railway Station- Lal Chowk routes.
Three buses each from JKSRTC and private transporters will be part of the service. Hundreds of women commuters see the service as a welcome relief from the continuous harassment they face while using public transport.
“When you get to use the local transport, you are likely to come across a fellow passenger passing lewd comments and staring continuously, or, in the worst case, even touching you. It is quite embarrassing and annoying,” said Faiqa, who, along with other 30 female passengers, is taking delight in this novel ride.
“It is certainly a relief for me and thousands of other females to travel by this bus, which is only meant for ladies,” she said.
But for Arifa Jan, a private teacher by profession, travelling by the newly-launched service has come as surprise.
“I was awestruck when I first stepped inside the bus. Without any men inside the bus, the environment was very comfortable and amazing,” she said.
The drivers and conductors in these buses are mostly males. On the first day of the service, the operators said they made a “slow but steady” start.
“It is just a start and few things are meant to be done. I hope this service will turn out to be a success,” said Abdul Rashid, an SRTC driver.
On the other hand, the private transporters are questioning the idea of having an all-women bus facility in the city. They fear losses.
“Our business will be hit since we cannot accommodate male passengers in our buses,” a private transporter said. “Moreover, if a father or a brother is accompanying
a woman, we cannot allow him to board the bus. It will result in huge losses.”
Regional Transport Officer, Farooq Ahmad Rather, who is monitoring the service, said the buses will be deployed in all parts of Srinagar once the initiative becomes successful.
He said the timings may also be increased from 6 pm to 8pm for the deployment of these buses.
“As a tentative initiative, we have started this service on only three routes on hourly basis. We will see if it works. Other routes of the city will also be covered for which we will give detailed plan in consultation with SSP Traffic and Transporters,” he said.
“With this initiative, I can now assure that my sisters and daughters need not to be concerned about sexual harassment in public buses,” Rather added.