Reserved seats to be strictly kept for the disabled
SRINAGAR: Coordinator Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell Tassaduq Mufti has asked the Transport Department to ensure the safety of women in public transport, amid growing incidents of the harassment of women passengers.
In an official communiqué, Tassaduq Mufti has asked the Commissioner/Secretary, Transport Department, Hemant Kumar Sharma to ensure that he implements the reservation of seats for women in public transport in letter and spirit, to prevent any violation of the order and harassment under cover of the breach.
“However it is generally seen that despite this reservation, woman commuters are forced to remain standing during their travel in public transport. Since public transport is mostly overcrowded, it gives a chance to certain unscrupulous elements to harass and abuse woman commuters. Besides the dignity of women, respect for physically disabled people also gets compromised, which is a matter of great concern,” he said.
The department, under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, had issued an order in 2012 to reserve eight seats for women and physically disabled people in public mini-bus transport.
“It should be ensured that the ‘reserved seats’ in public transport should be properly and boldly marked so that these reserved seats may easily be distinguished,” Mufti said.
He further asked traffic police personnel and other officials to conduct regular inspection of buses to check and control the order’s violation.
“The toll-free numbers notified by the Traffic Department for this purpose should be widely publicised,” Tassaduq said.
The Coordinator has also recommended regular sensitisation of drivers and conductors to make this campaign a success.
“I shall be grateful if necessary steps in this regard are taken,” he said.
As per women who travel regularly by public transport, instances of their harassment in public transport have become routine in Kashmir with the authorities turning a deaf ear to complaints.
“Seats reserved for women are often occupied by men, and it seems the authorities are least bothered about the plight of women bus commuters,” said Nazima, a University student.
The most sufferers on this account are female students and working women who have to travel during peak hours.
“We go through humiliation every time we travel by bus. The issue is worsened because public buses are over-crowded,” Shazia Bhat, an entrepreneur, told Kashmir Reader.
She complained that most times, boys pass vulgar comments and pinch and nudge women in overcrowded buses. “I have no option but to remain silent,” she said.
“It’s a harrowing experience for me to travel by public transport,” Shazia rued.
A Transport Department official said drivers and conductors were not following orders to tell male passengers to leave seats reserved for women and the physically disabled.
“It becomes a law and order issue when women and conductors or drivers don’t ask for it. The traffic police can make special checking squads to enforce the law. When they can check licenses, documents and overloading, why can’t they do it?” he asked.
However he stressed that public awareness could also play an important role. “There is a need of awareness. Everybody has to play a role in it.”
Shaista Ali, a college student, while sharing her travel experience said she had to regularly face inconvenience in overloaded buses.
“Male passengers don’t bother to offer a seat to women even as they watch them struggle amid a crowd of men. How can we expect the conductor to ask for it,” she said.
According to a circular issued by the Transport Commissioner, seat numbers 1 to 9 are mandatorily to be reserved for the women and the disabled.
“But it’s the Traffic Police’s job to carry out the order,” the circular said.
However, Traffic Police authorities have a different view of the issue. “Female passengers should come with a complaint so we take action against the driver,” a Traffic Police officer said.