New Delhi: The recent rape of a 25-year-old working woman in a taxi has raised questions on women's safety in cabs - considered, until now, one of the reliable modes of trravel. Now, women find themselves in a quandary as to which transport form can ensure a safe, hassle-free ride to their destination, irrespective of the time of day or night.
According to Kritika Khanna, things have "worsened" to such an extent that she no longer believes any form of transport is 100 percent safe.
"One always has to be on the guard. That said, within Delhi, I trust the Metro system much more than any other form of public transport. Security personnel are always present at the stations, there is proper lighting, you can contact the driver if you need any help, and there are cameras in every compartment," the 27-year-old journalist told IANS.
Khanna added in addition, she can always travel in the ladies compartment to escape being "groped" or "leched at".
She, however, was quick to add that this incident clearly marks the "death" of her freedom to party with friends late in the night and travel back home in a private cab.
"Do you really think my parents will ever allow me to travel by myself in a cab? Especially, since I stay in the city alone, away from family," she said.
Thirty-two year old cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav allegedly raped the business analyst Dec 5 night while dropping her at her home in north Delhi. He was arrested Dec 7 from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and is currently under judicial custody.
Mamta Sharma, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) agreed that "at present, no means of public transport can be deemed safe".
While advocating for stricter law and order, a change in people's mindsets and sensitisation of the police, Sharma questioned the judiciary saying "on what basis was the driver given bail".
"I am all for the decision to ban the service as it will be a lesson for other such service providers," she told IANS.
Agreed 28-year-old Devorica Adhikari who said she would perhaps feel safe in her private vehicle, adding it is something "I cannot afford".
"It is impossible to rely on any public transportation. If need be, I travel in the Metro, but make sure that I am with someone if it is too late," she told IANS.
Echoing similar sentiments CPI-M leader Brinda Karat told IANS that in a city which itself is unsafe, "no mode of transport can be safe enough".
"The government first needs to ensure that the city is safe.. they need to fill the gap between political rhetoric and commitment...," she told IANS adding that the government needs to implement the recommendations of the Justice (J.S) Verma Committee constituted to recommend amendments to the criminal law and provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for those accused of committing sexual assaults.
However, there are a few like 26-year-old Tanya Seth who feel that a change is needed in the way people think as there is no fear of the law at present.
"I think banning (the cab) services is an entirely reactive approach. Instead of women travelling in transport deemed 'safe', what we need is an environment where women can be themselves, the way they like. What we wear and where we go and when we travel in what mode of transport should not matter," Seth, a senior brand analyst, told IANS.
Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said that such incidents while instill a sense of fear "women should not stop moving around fearing risk".
"The government should come forward and tell people about the steps they are taking in this regard. Because if they are taking measures then such information such be in the public domain - people should know what is being done for them. At the moment, there is a strange silence and those who are raising a voice are facing a stonewall," she said.
"Such measures will help reassure the common man," she told IANS.