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    Force Deployed for Women’s Safety on Indian Capital’s Public Buses Wants to Be Better Equipped

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    New Delhi (Sputnik): On Tuesday, the city government in India’s national capital deployed 13,000 marshals to ensure the safety of women on state-run buses. The city, at one point, was making headlines for a rising number of incidents - especially sexual assaults against women.

    The Delhi government is in full swing to reduce crime against women by deploying marshals on public buses and introducing various other policies. However, stating that women often face serious offenders, marshals want the government to equip them better in order to tackle such elements.

     “We often come across serious offenders, who carry small weapons like [a] blade or a knife. But we are not equipped to deal with them”, a Delhi Civil Defence employee said, while requesting anonymity.

    “Today only I came across a pick-pocketer from whom I seized this blade”, he said, while showing the blade. He urged the government to at least equip them with wireless handsets and permit them to carry basic arms like batons to deal with serious law and order situations.

    A recent report from India’s crime regulator agency, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), suggested a 3.6 percent rise in criminal cases in 2017 compared to 2016.

    On the other hand, the DTC staff is relieved by the deployment of marshals in view of routine serious scuffles or offences that sometimes occur.

    Naresh Kumar, who has been driving the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses since 2011, said that the presence of marshals is a huge relief for them. He recounted incidents where people who had been held for harassing women would return for revenge, forcing the bus to stop in the middle of the road and create a ruckus.

    "Before the marshals were deployed, I or the bus conductor usually intervened in such incidents. But the accused used to come back for us (bus driver or conductor) in [a] group. They would note down the number plate and bus route and hound us”, Kumar said.
    Naresh Kumar, a bus driver with Delhi Transport Corporation, since 2011
    © Sputnik / Pratibha Sharma
    Naresh Kumar, a bus driver with Delhi Transport Corporation, since 2011

    “The victim passenger gets down and leaves. But we are left worried for our security. With marshals on buses, we feel safer", the driver added.

    The government estimates point out that female ridership makes up 33 percent of total passengers every day. According to the NCRB, the total number of crimes reported against women in 2017 stood at 359,000, up from 338,000 recorded in 2016.

    Not only ensuring women’s safety, security personnel also help disabled and senior citizens present on a bus. “Earlier, I or the bus conductor (ticket distributor) had to get down helping senior citizens or disabled passengers to take the bus. Now, they (marshals) can take care of everything”, he added.

    Meanwhile, Usha Sharma, another with the Delhi Civil Defence, narrated how she helps women and pointed out that their presence can make them feel more secure.

    “If we encounter some passing comments on women or constantly staring at them, we issue them a warning. If they do not listen, we make them de-board the bus”.
    Usha Sharma, a Delhi Civil Defence Personnel since 2015
    © Sputnik / Pratibha Sharma
    Usha Sharma, a Delhi Civil Defence Personnel since 2015

    There are 3,781 DTC buses and 1,808 cluster buses in the capital city. The city government is making efforts to deploy one marshal in each bus, with women personnel serving an eight-hour shift and males generally are assigned the night shifts.

    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, during a gender sensitisation programme in New Delhi on Monday, called on the people in the national capital to ensure women safety on government buses. He said with the latest move to provide safety and security on board public buses, he hopes women will feel more comfortable during their bus rides.

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    public transport, Sexual Harassment, India, Delhi
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