Help on wheels for women

Help on wheels for women

BMTC's Pink Sarathi vans, bought with grants from the Nirbhaya fund, are now patrolling the city to help women in distress

Pink Sarathi vans, launched by the BMTC under the Nirbhaya scheme, are out 24/7 keeping an eye out for women.

Since November, when they were introduced, they have dropped home 52 women stranded at night.

The BMTC has bought the vehicles from the Rs 56.07 crore it got from the central government under the Nirbhaya fund, which seeks to make cities safe for women.

“We have in all 25 vehicles that patrol the city. They are fitted with GPS and public announcement systems and attend to the grievances of women passengers on city buses,” C Shikha, managing director, BMTC, told Metrolife.

She says the vans are also ready to go to the rescue of any woman who seeks help. The Pink Sarathis work in three shifts: 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm and 10 pm to 6 am.

They are not a mode of public transport, but a means to instil confidence in women, Shikha says. “This is to ferry women stranded at bus stands or elsewhere to safer locations,” she says.

Pink Sarathi teams drive around bus stops and Metro and railway stations, and also ensure BMTC drivers stop at the designated bus stops. “Women passengers who wish to complain can call the helpline, which then contacts the nearest Sarathi team and the police, who rush to the complainant’s location,” she says.

Each Sarathi van has two BMTC staffers trained to attend to emergencies. “They are usually male because they move around at night,” says Shikha.  

Police app Suraksha gets 500 calls a day

The Bengaluru police recommends the use of their Suraksha app for women in distress.

A high-ranking officer says the idea of such apps is to instil faith in people that the police are quick to respond. “The app has been working well for two years,” he told Metrolife.

Most cases so far have been reported between 11 pm and 2 am. These are mostly from women working on night shifts and women facing domestic violence.

The app is integrated with 158 police stations across the city, which in turn, are connected to 272 Hoysala vehicles. “As soon as we get a call, the jurisdictional police station is alerted and a Hoysala is rushed to the spot. The location is tracked using Google maps,” the officer says.

The number of calls has doubled in two years, and the now add up to 500 a day. “Most are test calls but we still receive them and answer all queries. Genuine distress calls are still less than 30 a day,” he explains.

A senior officer with Central Crime Branch (CCB) says women often call 100 and seek help to be dropped to a safe location. “We must clarify this is not a drop facility. But the police make sure any woman or anybody in distress is relocated to a safe place,” he says.

Party plans

With the New Year just a fortnight away, police are heightening their patrolling. This year, they will be out in full force in areas such as Whitefield because, a senior officer says, “people now hang around in pockets rather than come into the heart of the city to party.”

BMTC’s outreach

Pink Sarathi seeks police help if necessary.

The vans are deployed around bus stands and Metro and railway stations.

They work round-the-clock in three shifts.

Why Suraksha 

The police app accurately traces the location.

Caller doesn’t need to talk and explain anything.

The response is immediate.

About Nirbhaya fund

It is a Rs 10 billion corpus set up in 2013 in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of a 26-year-old physiotherapist on a Delhi bus. The fund supports government organisations and NGOs working towards the safety of women in public places. Nirbhaya (fearless) was the name given to the 2012 gang-rape victim to hide her identity.

Call for help

1800 4251663: Pink Sarathi helpline

Any woman passenger in distress on a BMTC bus can call a Pink Sarathi for help.

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