The recent gang-rape of a paramedic student in the national capital over a week back has put focus on the shortcomings in the public transport system in Delhi.
Following widespread protests, including violent ones, the government has promised to take several measures, including installing GPS (global positioning system) devices in buses, taxis etc.
But, is it the first time something like this has been promised? No! The Delhi government has a number of times launched initiatives to make the public transport system efficient and safer. GPS devices were to be installed in DTC buses way back in 2003-04 but the plan never took off. Probably, the government wasn’t either interested or serious. There have been many other announcements related to improving the public transport system which have never seen the light of the day.
The government’s attitude has particularly been lacklustre in dealing with private buses, including whitelines, bluelines and RTVs/Gramin Sewas.
It may be recalled that Redlines were taken off the Delhi roads in the late 1990s after they became notorious for mowing down people. But, what were they replaced with? Bluelines, which were all the same except the colour. The clamour to replace the Bluelines grew louder in 2007, when the number of people killed by the buses crossed 100 in a year. In between, the famous scheme under which private buses were run under the DTC banner, popularly called the kilometre scheme, was also scrapped.
Commonwealth Games 2010 had come as a boon for the capital. In order to change the face of Delhi, low-floor DTC buses were brought in to replace the killer bluelines. However, to fill the void created by removing the Bluelines, Cluster buses, Gramin Sewas and small private buses were brought in. And speaking from my personal experience, leaving out the cluster bus service, most of them are driven by those who have least regard for the law and the other person on the road.
Some of the drivers in these private buses look so young that it would be fooling oneself to claim that they are valid licence holders or have undergone any basic training to drive public transport. Courtesy for them is an alien word.
As regards taxis, the only ones available anytime are radio cabs which charge a hefty amount. The cheaper ones or the regular black-yellow top taxis either never show up on being booked or are just not available.
In this case, for those travelling at night and who cannot afford expensive radio taxis the only option left is the less safe autorickshaws, whose drivers allow passengers in at their whims and fancies or the DTC buses, most of which are back in depots by 8-9 pm. So, the public is forced to take private buses, including the whitelines – in which the recent gang-rape took place.
So, what does the government need to do? Probably the following measures could help...
1. Install GPS in all public transport without delay.
2. Explore the possibility of having CCTVs in all buses, like the Delhi Metro.
3. All bus services post 9 pm in summers and 8 pm in winters should have a police constable on board.
4. Bring in ladies specials that run till late night.
5. Rein in auto rickshaws drivers who refuse to travel to several places because of less chances of getting passengers for the return journey.
6. Either train and strictly monitor private bus staff or just do away with all private buses.
7. Have small cluster buses to replace them with RTVs and Gramin Sewas.
8. No public transport should be driven by those without proper uniform, a valid licence and basic training on how to deal with the public.
9. Create taxi stands at various places in the cities, particularly near malls and cinema halls, instead of just concentrating them near airports and railway stations.
10. Have more police patrolling parties, especially at night.
11. Focus on installing CCTVs throughout the city than just increasing manpower of police.
12. Make maximum use of technology to make the city secure.
These one-time steps, plus many others, can go a long way in making the citizens, especially women, feel secure and prevent the recurrence of the recent gang-rape like incidents.