Pink taxis: safer commutes now?

Pink taxis: safer commutes now?

Women in Bengaluru can feel a bit safer with the Karnataka government taking a couple of measures to secure those travelling by taxis. The first is the introduction of taxis for women. An initiative of the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, which also runs a taxi service, it will make available for women commuting to and from Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport taxis that are driven by women. These cabs are equipped with GPS tracking systems, radio frequency identification tags and other devices that will enable authorities to keep track of the vehicle’s location and route. In addition, the use of child locks in cabs has been prohibited with the amendment of the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act. Karnataka’s Department of Transport has made January 16 the deadline for removal of child locks in taxis, including those that are part of mobile app-based cab aggregators. Non-implementation of this rule will invite legal action.

The measures have come in the wake of increasing attacks, including sexual violence, against women travelling in cabs. In June, a woman travelling in a cab to the airport was forced by the driver to strip and pose for photographs. He took a detour from the usual route and forced her to comply by threatening to rape her otherwise. Less than a month later, anothercab driver tried to abduct a woman passenger travelling to the airport. Fortunately, she was rescued by staff at a toll booth on the highway. There have been instances of passengers being unable to escape from the taxi due to the child lock system. Cab drivers dupe their passengers into agreeing to an alternative route, claiming the latter is less crowded. They then drive the cab into an isolated spot. Such incidents have grown in number in recent years, especially with app-based cab aggregators not verifying the antecedents of drivers. These incidents are, in fact, the tip of the iceberg, as many women prefer to not report to the police.

The measures to make travel by cabs safe for women are welcome but they will be successful only if systems put in place actually work. For instance, panic buttons were installed by cab companies but often these do not work. In July, when a cab driver took a detour from the usual route to the airport, the woman passenger pressed the emergency button in the cab and called a police helpline but received no response from either. It is important, therefore, that cab companies and the police as well as road traffic authorities monitor the efficacy of the safety measures put in place.

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