Making life safe for fair sex

Making life safe  for fair sex

When “Abhaya” came out of a shopping mall in Madapur, also known as Hitech city, it was not too late in the night. There were no bright streetlights. No APSRTC City bus was available for her to reach her working women’s hostel in the city. A white Volkswagen car with a yellow number plate identical to a taxi stopped and the driver offered to drop her for Rs 300.

Already, there was a man next to the driver in the car. As she sat in the back seat and got busy texting messages, the driver willfully took a wrong route and drove to Kollur, a small village on the fringes of the city. Then, the duo raped the girl and dropped her near the same shopping mall around midnight.

Abhaya could send a message through her mobile to a friend, who was in Bangalore at that time, that she was in trouble. On seeing this, the duo in the car snat­ched her phone. Without losing time, he alerted the Madapur police and immediately they launched a massive search operation. The Cyberabad police arrested the driver and his friend within a few days with the help of a CCTV camera footage of a corporate school enroute to Kollur. There was an outcry and many suggestions poured in to make the IT zone safer for women who work late in the night and travel at odd hours owing to their shifts.

The police unveiled a massive plan and sought central funds to instal night vision CCTV cameras on all main junctions and roads in the IT corridor. Police patrol was doubled and the APSRTC was asked to increase the number of buses in the Madapur area. But three incidents of molestation of women by auto drivers and a co-passenger in broad daylight around the same area and the narrow escape of all of them by jumping out of the speeding vehicles, resulted in a huge public outcry. Even before those incide­nts, an NGO and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) had launched their cabs with female drivers and the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) of neighbouring Medak district had completed a pilot project of training women drivers to help them find gainful employment in the IT corridor.

“At that time the Nirbhaya (December 16 Delhi rape) and Abhaya incidents had not happened. But we felt why not a woman driver, when a woman officer or an employee is travelling,” B Venkatesw­arlu, former District Collector of Medak, recalls. After a couple of batches were trained, the collector was transferred and the programme came to an abrupt halt. As a result, the DRDA scrapped the programme.

Inspired by the success stories of women drivers and pink cabs in cities like Thiruvanathapuram and Mumbai, the AP Balala Hakkula Sangham (APBHS), an organisation that works for the rights of children, and its president Vijaya Reddy, a journalist by profession, launched “She Cabs” taxi service with just two cars to cater for the needs of women.

“With women simply feeling less vulne­rable with female drivers, various organisations have set up female cab services across the country. After a few trial runs, She Cabs formally hit the streets of Hyderabad,” says APBHS former president Achyut Rao.

“Our cabs would be driven by women and devoted to women in the city. Only women will be allowed to travel in these cabs. The drivers are highly qualified and well-mannered. We also teach some basic martial arts techniques to our drivers for the safety of passengers.

These cabs are fitted with security systems like GPS, alerts and updates. We provide luxurious, comfortable and safe travel at an affordable price,” he added.She Cabs are similar to the existing radio cabs in the city. The tracking devices are linked to police stations across the city as an alarm system. “With the increasing number of cases of viole­nce against women in the city, it is important to have an exclusive transport system for women. Despite the potential challenges I may face, it is a privilege for me to serve the members of my community,” said 23-year-old Nagamani, one of the drivers of She Cab.

Ready to trainVijaya Reddy, who also drives one of the cabs, says: “Someone has to come forwa­rd to be a woman pilot. I am happy that I took this step. I am hoping that this would inspire many women to come forward.” Ever since the cab service was launched, she has been receiving calls from women expressing their interest. “We are ready to train them as well,” she says.

It is by women and for women. She says that only women are allowed to travel and men, whatever may be the relation with the passenger, are not allowed inside the cab.Almost simultaneously in February, the GHMC, as a part of creating new employment avenues for women, launched a pilot project, “She Taxi”, in collaboration with Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Green Cabs.

Taxis were flagged off by the then mayor M Majid Hussain, deputy mayor G Raj Kumar and GHMC commissioner Somesh Kumar.

Travelling in She Taxis will prove to be safer for children, women and senior citizens. Five cars were handed over to women drivers G Koteshwaramma (Gowlipura), G Shobha (SR Nagar), M Madhuri (IDPL Colony), G Umadevi and K Balamani (Amberpet). The vehicles are also fitted with GPS. The scheme provi­des assured and secured employment assistance, market tie-up with Green Cabs, 85 per cent financial assistance through banks and 15 per cent margin money with two months’ moratorium.

The GHMC would assist women interested in driving cabs by providing subsidy and helping them have tie-ups with orga­nisations. The driver-cum-owner will get an opportunity to work for government offices, private organisations and cab services.

This year, autorickshaws driven by women drivers and meant only for women would be introduced primarily in the Cyberabad area which has a huge number of young IT employees working at odd hours. Although “pink” autos have already been introduced in places like Gurgaon, the idea has failed to take off since the drivers are male.

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