By Tanaya Singh:
Lets begin with four steps towards successful (read hideous) public transport:
Step 1: Girl steps inside an auto rickshaw.
Step 2: After 5 minutes, auto suddenly halts in the middle of a street with heavy traffic.
Step 3: Girl disembarks the vehicle.
Step 4: She walks away with a disgusted look on her face.
Where does she go after that? We are not concerned about it right now. As far as I can tell, she does not go home. She takes another rickshaw instead and goes to wherever she was going, closing her eyes and making about-to-puke expressions on the way.
We are dealing with the public transport (especially auto rickshaw) in smaller cities. Those, in which, you have to share a 4 seat vehicle with around 10 strangers, unlike metropolitans where a single auto is your own (individual or a family) till you pay the fare. In many cities, shared auto system is followed. Keeping the size of the city in mind with the ever increasing population along with vehicle generated pollution, this is a good idea. But what’s not good is the idea of treating women in an embarrassing way under the camouflage of an overcrowded seating arrangement.
Usually, the arrangement of seating in the medium sized auto, as shown above is as follows.
– 4 people on the back seat(extendable to 5 or 6 with a kid)
– 3 men in the front (excluding the driver and extendable to 4 with the driver almost in the air)
– 2 people in the rear end (facing each other)
In this manner of seating, the general norm is that men sit in front, and women at the back. But sometimes, when the front seats are occupied and the back seats vacant for one or two, men have no other option but to sit with the ladies. While sometimes, with the front seats vacant, men choose to give the lady/ladies some company. However, undoubtedly, the option of keeping their hands and shoulders in control is definitely with them. So why does it sometimes happen, that a lady feels a hand moving on her thighs, or a shoulder slowly slumping and then rubbing against her body, or hands folded across a man’s chest trying to get a feel of her breasts, or his elbow touching her waist in rhythm with the movement of the wheels? And if the lady turns around to look at the person trying to manoeuvre her body, the hands suddenly vanish, and the general expression on the pervert’s face is that of complete innocence and even indifference, as if everything that happened was not the doings of his body, but the fault of the auto for moving in such a way that he has no alternative other thanÂ bumping into her.
Some women shout at the man, who continues to act as if he is the most clean-handed person on the planet and tries to prove the girl insane with a really horrid smile. But if she continues to persist that the man was trying to misbehave, and there are a few other females or sensible males with her, he is thrown out of the vehicle. Many women simply ask the driver to stop and they get off the auto to escapeÂ furtherÂ humiliation. The man in this case tries to act as a “gentleman” making space for her to leave, while his insides smirk at his success. This is sensible when there are only men in the rickshaw, considering the recent “mob mentality” incidents all over the country.
The real concern here is that, nothing at all is done is such cases. If the girl has the guts to get the man pushed out, she just has an internal glowing satisfaction that she raised her voice, and a small hope that maybe because of her action, he won’t try his flimsy hands on someone else. Other than that, nothing. The traffic system in small cities is not so strong that the auto can be stopped at the nearest signal, and the man be handed over to an official.
Aspects where the traffic police can help, is usually nullified with a few rupee notes helping them instead, because of which they allow auto rickshaws filled beyond capacity to cross without any hindrance. Or else one or two of the men in the front seat are asked to quickly hop back and “adjust” with the ladies when a traffic signal is nearby.
Abolishing the shared auto system won’t be advisable in this case. It will just be an added problem to the cities’ transportation woes. What will help is a “strict” rule on the number of people allowed to sit inside the auto rickshaw, fixing the numbers in accordance with the size of the vehicle. It should be 4 in the back seat, and 2 in front including the driver (for the above mentioned size of the auto). This way, people can sit comfortably without bodies rubbing into each other.
Ladies have already stopped sitting in a rickshaw which has a few men sitting inside. If such cases of getting touchy on an already bumpy ride of the broken streets continues; they will have to quit taking rickshaws completely in such cities, and instead depend on other means of transport, which, in many cases are very rare.
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Tanaya is the Senior Sub-editor of Youth Ki Awaaz. To read her other posts, click here.[/box]