Ask any woman who has had to navigate the same city after sunset and they'll unanimously rue how dark alleys bring out the darkest side of some. The eve teasing of broad daylight turns into a cringe fest of harassment, molestation, overt gestures and even sexual aggression.
One of the latest victims happens to be a solo woman commuting in a cab that claims to be a safer option and a pan India travel solution. "In a city that I call home made me feel extremely unsafe today," wrote Twitter user Anila Kurian. Tagging Ola Cabs, the post continues, "Took an Ola Cab around the usual time after work only to be with a driver who had the audacity to think he could masturbate in front of me. He kept at it thinking I hadn't noticed and kept at it."
The thread further reads, "With the little courage I had, screamed and shouted, made him stop the cab. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a dark street with a barely lit street light. He stopped and drove off."
While the OLA company has revoked the driver's access with the platform, it's equivalent to a topical treatment where we need to be looking for a cure. Stringent security norms to make women feel safe at any hour.
Much to the reassurance of netizens and the victim, Commissioner of Police Bengaluru City, responded, "Your complaint is duly noted and a team has already been put on the job to secure the culprit. They will get in touch with you for more details. This will also be taken up with Ola cabs for appropriate action at their end." When IBTimes reached out to DCP Central Bengaluru, MN Anucheth, he had not responded by the time of filing of this story.
The bigger question
Though the particular incident may meet the end it deserves, but it still leaves the bigger question unanswered. Not every woman commuter has access to social media or the courage to overcome the shame and trauma and report the incident immediately. Even larger issue at hand is the incident neither being rare nor the last. "My wife had a similar experience in a Bangalore auto-rickshaw about 20 years back," wrote one of the many coming forward with similar harrowing accounts. Two decades and technology overhaul later things don't seem to have changed much.
We can find a ride at the click of a button, but not safety for women. In 2017, the Ministry of Women and Child Development came up with a number of taxi policy guidelines to ensure security of women passengers. For instance, dislodging the central locking system in taxis, mandatory fitting of GPS, driver's identification displayed prominently etc.
Not the first, unfortunately nor the last
In June 2018, Arun V, Ola cab driver, with no previous criminal record, drove the cab towards an isolated place near Kothanpur before molesting the 24-year-old woman passenger who was headed to the airport for a Mumbai-bound flight. He later confessed to the police he was emboldened by the fact that no one would come for her help as it was a deserted place, moreover she couldn't raise the alarm as he had already snatched her mobile phone. The unfortunate incident, while still fresh in the minds of women who travel odd hours for work, is not isolated one either.
In 2019, a man taking Uber bookings used someone else's credentials and allegedly raped a 26-year-old woman, working at a tech firm in Greater Noida. Every single year, an unfortunate incident hits the headlines, with many more going unreported. Though the places, timings and cab companies vary, however one underlying factor remains the same; that not all women are safe at any hour.