I came across this petition today on change.org by a girl named Rashmi Bachani who was molested by a bus driver while travelling solo. She had booked her bus ticket online and has appeal to RedBus (the company she booked her ticket with) to work towards making travel safer for women, especially the ones travelling solo. She says,
“I was molested by a bus driver. Apparently a girl sleeping alone on a single berth equals easy prey, and the driver felt I was up for “grabs”, so to speak.”
As a girl travelling alone, I’m sure you have experienced creeps staring at you, drivers and conductors eyeing you like a piece of candy. Buses have no proper stopovers, dinner breaks at deserted dhabas with no proper toilets. Not everyone can afford travelling by a flight, a train seat is not always available, sometimes you have last moment plans and believe it or not some routes don’t have an option of a flight or train connection (Try reaching Alsisar from Delhi). Bus is often the most sensible means of travel, and due to lack of options, we ignore ratings and reviews of buses or don’t ask for them at all. What’s more important for travelling usually is choosing a mode that best meets our time and budget.
Whilst you can’t do much to avoid creepy co-passengers, the least one can expect is a decent service by bus operator or the agents we book through like Redbus etc. The girl wrecked her brain over what would make women feel safer travelling by bus, reached out to RedBus with her suggestions, since they are the most preferred bus booking website. However the answer she received was a mere response saying “Thank you for your suggestions, we will attempt to implement the same”. This was a couple of months back. For a long time none of the suggestions were implemented till she started an online petition on change.org.
We definitely need a more transparent bus system. The drivers, owners and other staff should know that they are accountable and responsiblefor the safety of the passengers travelling with them. None of us expect a 5 star (or even 3 star) treatment from a bus journey costing Rs. 800 – 1000, however everyone expects basic facilities and respect, considering passengers spend 10 – 14 hours in the bus on their journeys.
Here are some points suggested by Rashmi Bachani:
- Background Verification of Drivers and all staff should be made mandatory for listing on RedBus.
- List of Drivers / Staff with photo and employee id on the website.
- Ratings of the Driver and Staff like cab aggregators have.
- Stops taken by the bus for food, breakfast etc in case of any mishaps and also to judge the quality of the service.
- Orientation whilst hiring – Don’t hire any Tom, Dick & Harry who knows how to drive. Make sure the staff hired knows about penalties for misbehaviour which would include drinking while driving, stealing from passengers, misbehaviour, sexual harassment, refusal to stop at bus stops etc.
- Employee ID, Name, Photo (of driver, helper) clearly indicated on the bus tickets, and available on the RedBus App
- Deatils and the approximate time of the stopovers taken by the bus enroute.
- An immediate and responsive emergency complaint system on the redBus App
- Phone Numbers in the Bus, clearly visible to all passengers stating “In case of emergency / complaints, call this number”. Also that the complaint can be registered online via Redbus.in or the RedBus app.
- List of complaints that the passengers are invited to raise – Rash Driving, Drunk Driving, Misbehaviour, Harassment including Sexual Harassment – this indicates that the complaint will be taken seriously and the numbers are not there for formality only, which is often the reason why such information gets ignored.
- On website, a complaints resolution system that is continuously monitored and invites / encourages people to talk about their issues.
- A phone number to call in case of any harassment issues such as Bachani’s.
RedBus has already implemented or start implementing the points suggested by Bachani. See RedBus’ traveller safety features introduced here.
The railways have adopted and instant complaint resolutions through Twitter / SMS and so have all the players in the taxi aggregation business’ like Ola Cabs and Uber (or were they forced to?). If only makes sense prevails, all tech-focussed startups would start making passenger / customer safety, a priority without waiting for such incidents to force them to do it.
It’s not too big a ask, is it? More and more women are travelling solo these days for work, holidays or just to meet family members. The number of molestation / rape cases haven’t reduced, however. I think it is the responsibility of every company that ventures into travel related business’ to make safety for women or for that matter any passenger, a part of their mission.
Sign Rashmi Bachani’s petition here to support safer travels for women on RedBus.
UPDATE – 10th June 2016
RedBus has heard the petition and is willing to help improve our travel experiences! Here are the steps being taken by them.