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National Commission for Women,
March 8, 2017
Subject: Request to Issue Suggestions to Indian Railways to Improve Safety of Women in Trains
We, a group of responsible and committed citizens, are writing to you with suggestions to improve and ensure the safety of women in Indian railways. The Railways is an important communication link in our country. Every day, millions of Indians commute through the railways. However, there are several challenges in this sector. Recently, there have been many efforts to improve the Indian railways but a lot needs to be done for the safety of passengers, especially the women passengers.
The Railways is, unfortunately, another vulnerable space for women. Sexual assault, molestation, and even rapes have been reported in trains and are even rising. As per the information available on the Indian Railways website, the incidents of rape year wise are: 21 in 2011, 47 in 2012, 54 in 2013, 40 in 2014 and 33 (until Sept month) in 2015 whereas, crime against woman other than rapes 'registered' in IPC are: 154 (in Train) and 222 (in Premises) in 2011; 229 (in Train) and 215 (in Premises) in 2012; 350 (in Train) and 289 (in Premises) in 2013; 330 (in Train) and 258 (in Premises) in 2014; 260 (in Train till Sep month) and 172 (in Premises till Sep month) in 2015.
In view of this, we have thought of several measures that can contribute to making our trains safer for women:
a) A female-only coach, especially for long distance journeys involving one or more nights of travel is still unavailable in all such trains where night journey is required. Presently there are few trains with such provisions but that needs to be increased.
b) Emergency buttons in trains, in the washrooms, to ensure women feel safer in trains. To avoid misuse, a heavy fine can be charged in case of its violation. There may also be an emergency complaint system (with the provision of the speaker) that can connect a woman traveler directly to the security person/guard who is present in the train.
c) Deployment of guards in every coach or at least two guards patrolling trains, especially overnight ones should be achievable. Though it is in use at present, but somehow this provision is not much effective. An analysis must be done regarding the same. Few more female guards must be deployed and they should preferably be in civil dress.
d) Better working conditions for women employees. Since the railways have taken this initiative of deploying women officers and women staff for various other jobs at the station, they should also take care of their women employees and must provide them with better and healthy working conditions that would cater to their unique job needs. The responsibility of the Railways is huge in terms of providing necessary amenities and security to its women employees in station premises and on-board trains so that they are able to conduct their responsibilities nicely.
e) A sanitary napkin vending machine in washrooms of railway stations. Sanitary Napkin along with basic medicines should be one of the things that should be available (on request) in trains.
f) Hygeine should be taken care of. A lot of women/people have complained about dirty loos and unhygienic conditions in Indian trains which in turn is the reason for the spread of a lot of diseases. Care should be taken to maintain cleanliness inside and outside the trains.
g) There should be a provision for women traveling alone or in groups to be able to change their seats during the journey. This should be authorized and facilitated by the T.T.E. If (s)he feels the people around the female(s) are of a suspicious character and condition, that request should be immediately taken into consideration.
h) Women helpline numbers (Toll-Free Helpline No. 182 and All-India Helpline No. 138) are in use at few places, but not completely effective. Also, its information has not been disseminated. A lot of women are unaware of such a helpline. We suggest that its information should be disseminated through stickers in compartments, through advertising on display boards in stations, through printing in train tickets and through broadcast and social media as well. This helpline number should also be sent by Railways and IRCTC along with Ticket information via SMS. Effective reporting and action should be planned for its proper implementation as many times such helpline numbers are busy/non-responsive. As connectivity during travel is also an issue, railways must do its best effort to improve connectivity in no signal zones or to take up the matter with telecom operators for providing shared networks for calling Helpline numbers under 'emergency' / SOS call.
i) A social media App R-Mitra was launched last year by Hon'ble Railway Minister for 'Eastern Railway' women commuters. A lot of women have complained that this app doesn’t work properly. We suggest that effectiveness of this app should be monitored and if found suitable, improved versions should be launched for other zones as well
j) CCTV cameras are installed in very few trains. We suggest these cameras should be installed in all the trains and their working must be ensured. These cameras should be installed on all routes with proper technical analysis and their installation must be feasible and effective in terms of women safety.
k) Though railway reservation system is computerized, such possibility should also be explored where all booked tickets by a single woman or a group of women can be (even if later) combined together in the vicinity of each other.
We appeal to you to consider these suggestions and direct the Ministry of Railways to think upon these measures and adopt them to ensure women’s safety in trains.
Devika Mittal, Madhulika Narasimhan, Ravi Nitesh and Shruti Arora