India’s startup capital has been declared unsafe for women. Yet again, on 5 July an Ola cab driver tried to kidnap a woman passenger (25) on her way to the airport. She was rescued by the staff at a toll booth on the highway. The driver Suresh was arrested by the Chikkajala police. The statistics too look bad. A National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2017 suggests a big jump in crimes against women in Bangalore. It puts Bengaluru next only to Delhi, which is notorious for being unsafe for women. A 2014 data shows that the major crime rate was 3,100 while in 2015 it increased to 3,109. The figure jumped by more than 300 cases in 2016.
Also Read: Women Of Bangalore Say City Is Far From Safe, Losing Its Professional Image
SheThePeople.TV spoke to women from diverse backgrounds in the tech-city to understand what worries them about cab rides. How safe do Bangalore women feel in app-based cabs?
Flawed Grievance Redressal Mechanism
It is a well-known fact that the popular app-based cab Uber doesn’t have a human interface as part of their Customer Care support. For Ola cabs, even though they have it, it takes forever to get an issue resolved. When in a dire situation, one can hit the Support tool in the app. One can file a complaint via an email or raise a ticket through the app. However, if the driver is non-responsive, reluctant there’s nothing further you can do.
“A social media savvy person would take to Twitter and complain. But does it offer speedy redressal?” asks Surekha, a teacher, who lives in the outskirts of Bangalore. Surekha admits she is not that social media savvy. “Getting a prompt reply on Twitter and a resolution from the company seems a myth to me. When a direct contact is practically impossible, how would the backend team keep on tracking Twitter, is beyond my senses,” she adds.
Not knowing the local language
Not knowing the local language is a big challenge. “Once I was in a cab heading to a friend’s place. The entire trip was fine and I didn’t mind the driver and kept myself busy with my music box, headphone. Once I reached the location and the driver ended the trip, he asked me how I would be paying him in the local language. I barely understood it and politely asked him if he knows Hindi or English. That was my biggest mistake. He started gibbering in his language and said ‘madam, talk in Kannada or don’t bother paying me. Get out!’ I was stunned,” Moumita, an MBA student explained her nightmare.
“Once I took a shared cab. The driver picked me up first and then took me to places I didn’t know existed in the city till then. It wasn’t that he misbehaved but instead of dropping me at my location, he kept travelling with me, picking up one after another passenger for two hours. It was night-time and one fellow passenger was drunk. I felt uncomfortable and told the driver to drop me first since it’s been hours. It should have taken merely 20 minutes to reach. When asked if he is dropping me first or not after sitting uncomfortably for 2 hours 20 minutes, he had the audacity to tell me ‘ma’am share mein toh aisahi hota hai (this is how shared cabs work). This is not rental ke app ki mann marzi chalegi,’ said Ruhi, a 26-year-old sales professional.
Ankita, who works for a PR firm, shared, “I was travelling in the city for work. This is one of those times when you instantly know that something is wrong, you get the vibe as soon as you board the cab. The driver was so arrogant and he didn’t have a badge. I didn’t have change and was denied paying back the extra. I had to leave urgently because I was late for a meeting, but he took 20 extra bucks, giving me excuses and uninvited advice.”
“I personally feel that our law enforcement needs to be stronger. There is no fear in the minds of people committing crimes, assault or eve teasing. There should be police patrolling in every vulnerable corner,” claims Aparna, a 32-year-old city-based techie.
What Should We Do?
Malini Gowrishankar of F5 Escapes, who runs a travel platform for women, says, “It is extremely unfortunate that we still have such incidents happening right in cosmopolitan cities like Bangalore.”
“We as a society have been taught not to get into trouble, but it’s high time we took collective responsibility and fight the fight against sexual harassment on the streets.”
Gowrishankar believes the following changes should be made:
- Companies should tighten their scrutinizing process, educate and sensitize drivers on sexual harassment and the potential consequences. Respect for women has to be indoctrinated in the minds of these drivers. They should also have very strict regulations in place that would make an offender think twice before erring.
- Women should be trained to handle such scenarios, minimising panic and using their presence of mind. Being alert at all times is key when travelling alone in a cab at night-time. Men and women should also learn to stand up for themselves, but also for others when they spot such harassment. We as a society have been taught not to get into trouble, but it’s high time we took collective responsibility and fight the fight against sexual harassment on the streets. We don’t want more #MeToos to happen in the era of talking about #MeToos, do we?
The Silicon Valley of India is being labelled unsafe. But the rise of young professionals is notable too. Will they survive together? What’s your take? Tell us in the comment section below.