New Delhi, Oct 4, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) ‘Only for Women’ reads the gleaming pink-and-white sign on the platform, grabbing all eyeballs as enthused females wait for the train. A security guard deployed at the Metro station ensures there are no men boarding the first coach that has been earmarked for women.
Putting an end to the anxieties and fears of women passengers, Delhi Metro Saturday gifted an exclusive coach to the fairer sex on the 141st anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
This IANS reporter decided to experience the difference by taking the journey from the Metro’s Pratap Nagar station to Green Park, a 45-minute ride spanning across 16 Metro stations.
Inside the reserved compartment, the ambiance almost resembled a celebration of triumph. Smiling faces discussed how relieving it was to have a coach only for women.
‘It is amazing. Earlier, the same Metro used to look like a vegetable market with people fighting to get inside. You just needed a push from the person behind you to board the train,’ Ritika Maheshwari, a regular Metro commuter, told IANS.
Children up to 12 years – irrespective of the gender – old and physically challenged were also allowed to travel in the exclusive coach.
The reserved coach has seating for 43 people.
As the train crossed stations, women passengers continued to pour in while men were directed towards the second coach.
At major multi-level stations like Kashmere Gate and Rajiv Chowk, the facility had teething problems because of the heavy rush.
But at most of the stations, patrolling police officers got the coach vacated of men who had boarded the forbidden car.
‘At peak hours, it was terrible to travel in the Metro. People were just stuffed, with everyone falling over one another. I hope it becomes better for us women now,’ said Sukriti Sharma, a commuter.
But not all were happy with the new arrangement.
‘You cannot provide a facility to women by putting men at inconvenience. We also board crowded trains, carry heavy luggage at times. It is not fair to reserve coaches only for women,’ said Jitin Kalra, who works in Gurgaon and travels by Metro to HUDA city centre.
Besides men, other sections unhappy with the ‘ladies only’ arrangements were couples and families.
‘My husband was sent to another coach. We have to get down at New Delhi Railway Station to catch a train to Lucknow. We have luggage also, it is so difficult,’ said Tripti Shukla, traveling with her husband on the underground yellow line of the Metro.
The Delhi government had sent a proposal to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation after a survey reported that almost 50 percent of women felt unsafe using public transport in Delhi.
‘Earlier, men were pushing women. Now women would be haggling with women at peak hours,’ a woman was heard saying.
(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)