Mumbai: ‘Auto drivers have been told to eject harassers’

If a woman is touched inappropriately while travelling in a share auto, the vehicle will directly be taken to the nearest police station as per directions from the city’s auto union. Complainants can also call 103 or 100 and the Nirbhaya squad, a specially assigned unit for the protection of women, will arrive on the scene within seven minutes, the Mumbai police have promised.

Radio City 91.1 FM has been running a campaign, ‘Touch Me Not’, concerning the safety of women commuters travelling via share auto rickshaws. It involves all stakeholders, from average commuters to film stars and from the Mumbai traffic police to auto unions.

The campaign received a great response across the city. Many women commuters who have been harassed, as well as concerned male commuters, opened up about their feelings through calls as well as text messages to the Radio City team. The goal of the campaign is not only to highlight the menace but also to seek a possible solution.

When the team spoke to famous filmmaker and actor Anurag Kashyap, he said, “The body of an individual is his or her private space and nobody has the right to invade it. Not just by means of inappropriate touch but by means of judging or looking at them differently.”

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Mumbai resident Vijayalakshmi said, “Women are always accused. People say, ‘She was the one to go there or wore a certain type of clothes’, but society never realises that the actual culprits are the ones who have a mindset to touch or look at women in an inappropriate way. I have raised my son in such a way that he realises how important his sister is to him and so is any other woman. The use of pepper spray for self-defence should also be promoted. Every citizen should act responsibly and be vigilant.”

‘Witnessed the harassment’

Nikhilesh, a regular share auto commuter, said, “Some time ago, a man, woman and myself were travelling from Dombivli to Airoli. The woman was carrying a child who merely seemed a year old. I could smell the scent of alcohol on the man, who was definitely drunk. He started touching the woman inappropriately. We finally made the man get out of the auto after he offered to buy a balloon for the baby at a signal. The rickshaw driver also cooperated with both of us and made the man get down.” If such incidents keep happening, women commuters will feel unsafe while travelling via share autos.

Actress Nushrratt Bharuccha, while speaking to Radio City, stated, “If you are sharing an auto with two other strangers, let alone touching, they don’t have the right to look at you differently or make you feel uncomfortable for the duration of the ride. The basic sense of humanity and respecting her [a woman] as a person is very important. Making her feel uncomfortable or exploited is a grave act of indecency. It just cannot happen. Raising a voice in such cases is very important. If not, you are increasing the confidence of the person committing the offence. You can record the actions of such people on your mobile phone and let the world know what type of person he is or even ask the rickshaw driver to take the auto to the nearest police station.”

Joint Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, Satyanarayan Chaudhary told Radio City that the response time of the Nirbhaya squad is less than seven minutes. “This squad is stationed at every major police station across Mumbai and is often seen on round-ups,” Chaudhary said.

See it? Report it!

He added, “It is expected from citizens to pass on any details regarding such incidents to the police. Our response in any such case will always be positive and swift. Do not hesitate to call our helpline numbers 103 and 100 if you spot any such incident. Each and every call is taken seriously and prompt action is taken in case of any such complaint.”

Auto union head says

Shashank Sharad Rao of Mumbai Automen’s Union said auto drivers across Mumbai have been told to make the customer concerned get down if a woman complains about misbehaviour towards her by any fellow passenger or even if the driver feels like someone is treating a woman passenger inappropriately. “We have also instructed auto drivers to take the woman to the nearest police station if she wishes to press charges,” Rao said.

“We are also urging the authorities to take action against illegal autos as they are the ones who are seen driving irresponsibly and do not follow the instructions given by the union regarding women’s safety issues. We also provide the government as well as RTO offices information about any such illegal auto rickshaws so that swift action is taken. Incidents of illegal auto drivers using violence against commuters have also come to our notice,” he added.

7 min
Time Nirbhaya squad takes to reach spot

103 and 100
Mumbai Police helpline numbers

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