BMTC’s women-only lounges which ensure the safety of women by debarring the entry of men at all times, fail to serve their purpose as women complain of a lack of security officials deployed to keep a check on these lounges.
It’s 9.00 PM and Sudeeksha Kouthsasa waits in the women-only bus-lounge at the bus terminal to catch a bus back home. She begins to feel slightly uncomfortable in the absence of a security guard.. “What is the point of having a women-only lounge if my fears can knock me off in a space meant for women alone?,”she questions.
Like Kouthsasa, several women complain of not being able to access the women-only bus lounges in the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) terminals. They say that these lounges neither have any security guards nor surveillance cameras to ensure their safety.
Ajit B Torgal, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of BMTC, assures that the BMTC bus terminals are safe for women. He said, “Ensuring women safety in buses and the bus terminals is our topmost priority. We try our best to not cause inconvenience to women commuters of BMTC buses during any time of the day or night.”
Currently, BMTC has bus lounges exclusively for women commuters at about 15 bus terminals and Traffic and Transit Management Centres (TTMCs) at places like Shanti Nagar, Koramangala, Banashankari, Kempegowda Bus Terminal, etc. These lounges are guarded by a woman security personnel at all times and have facilities such astoilets, drinking water and baby feeding room.These facilities are maintained and run under the Nirbhaya fund scheme.
Anshi Singh, a student at Jain University, said, “I usually wait for my father at the bus stop near our home. When he is late, the women-only lounges are my only go-to place. However, since the past couple of months, I see men are also entering the area. Most of the time, many of these lounges are shut.”
The Softcopy, after checking the lounges in the city found out that some lacked security guards and others at Banashankari TTMC, Majestic TTMC and Shanthinagar TTMC were shut. Jaynagar TTMC didn’t have a women-only lounge.
After the Hyderabad rape case came to light, BMTC in a press release notified that these women-only lounges will start functioning at bus terminals. . The press release also mentioned that these women waiting lounges ‘would be under the surveillance of woman security guard’.
L Jayaprakash, Chief Security and Vigilance Officer, BMTC, said, “We are still constructing these lounges at some bus terminals. At those lounges which are already functioning, we have deployed guards to help women passengers at all times. Regarding CCTV surveillance, we are still in the process of installing CCTV cameras in all the bus stations. We are waiting for the government to pass the tender for this.”
Akriti Singh, an advocate, said, “Sexual harassment in public transport in India is not uncommon. While the idea of women-only lounges really appealed to me, the ground reality is something else. The condition of these lounges shows that women safety in this country is just a far-fetched dream. This problem can be solved if women take it on themselves to report the issue to the concerned authorities.”