Tag Archives: safety

The Attractive Metro – not so attractive for women!

By Nidhi Batra

We assume that as a woman you have equal right to the city as your male counterpart. We assume that the city is ours as much as his. We assume that we can also do our normal chores with the city, use its infrastructure, walk, traverse and interact with the city with equal pleasure. But, we all know we assume wrong. Indian cities (and villages) are now synonymous with rapes. These are places not meant for us; these are places where we are ‘justified victims’. Our complaints fall on deaf ears of politicians, horror of civic planning and horrendous urban management.

Anyone familiar with urban literature is well traversed with the concept of ‘Eyes on the sidewalk’ by Jane Jacobs. But in many Indian situations, there are just too many eyes – fixed right at you, piercing through you, making you uncomfortable to the level that it is you and not those eyes that choose to look away.

Metro stations in Delhi and Gurgaon are one such pool of leering eyes. All metro stations were to be equipped for intermodal change. They are to permit a user jump off the metro and take a rickshaw, auto or your own parked vehicle for that last mile connection. Most metro stations have all of this. Autos that are parked right till the entrance of the metro station, rickshaws right behind them and insufficient car parking areas. Metros are being planned and constructed, however no planning and urban design is instituted in the design of these metro stations. Sitting bang on the road, most metro stations have no allocated space for these rickshaws and autos. These vehicles hover up on the street and the resultant is a traffic mess due to ill – managed transport. But it doesn’t really stop there. These autowallas and rickshaw wallas in their full attempt to ‘grab’ a ‘savari’ conglomerate right at the entry/exit of the station and pounce on every single user descending the metro station. This pouncing becomes even greater if it’s a woman user. And if unfortunately you are a user trying to enter the metro station – bad luck! You would have to fight through this wall of ambushing crowd and find your way in. Oh and if you are disabled or pregnant like I was last year, the struggle gets double! How dare then can we assume that this city is ‘also’ for us!

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The picture above is at Sikanderpur metro station in Gurgaon, at 1 pm (not even office hours!)

On the other side of how further the metro is limiting to women passengers is the case example of Gurgaon Rapid Metro. The ingenious move of the Gurgaon Rapid Metro to earn revenue and avail some of its construction cost is to brand their coaches. As a result the entire coach brands a commercial commodity. Skoda and 3Cs are some of the brands endorsing the Rapid Metro. These endorsements wrap the entire coach so perfectly that, in the day time, the dark film doesn’t even let you see inside the coaches. I remember standing at the station wondering whether I should step in the coach – with no idea who or what could be going on inside. Once again, how dare, I even imagine that I could quickly take this metro and meet my friend at cyber hub for that afternoon coffee! Of-course branding is more important than me!

Skoda Rapid-Gurgaon Metro ad campaign

Source: http://www.motortrend.in/autonews/09122013/skoda-teams-up-with-gurgaon-rapid-metro.htm

Design, planning, governance and urban management – all together, need to play a role to make our cities safe for women. Metro is an exemplar for infrastructural development in NCR, but sadly even this successful intervention did not plan for its women passengers. A simple urban design exercise could have saved these transport nodes from turning into such havoc and would have given us the right to the city, we still believe and hope we deserve!

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Urban Poor Women and Children in Slums are Unsafe

By Shivani Singh, PRIA

Today, more than one billion people in the world live in slums. In the developing world, one out of every three people living in cities lives in a slum. The word “slum” is often used to describe informal settlements within cities that have inadequate housing and squalid, miserable living conditions. They are often overcrowded, with many people crammed into very small living spaces. These settlements lack basic municipal services such as water, sanitation, waste collection, storm drainage, street lighting, paved sidewalks and roads for emergency access. Most also do not have easy access to schools, hospitals or public places for the community to gather. Many slums have been unserviced and unrecognised for long periods, over 20 years in some cities. Like all informal settlements, housing in slums is built on land that the occupant does not have a legal claim to and without any urban planning or adherence to zoning regulations. In addition, slums are often areas where many social indicators are on a downward slide; for example, crime and unemployment are on the rise. (Cities alliance, 2014)

One of the downward slides of social indicators is seen how women and children living in slums often get victimized living in such unsafe and insecure environment. This was best narrated by Ms Purnima Gupta, a leader, social activist and change maker of Bihari Basti, New Delhi.

I met Ms Purnima Gupta Vice President of Jugghi Jhopari Ekta Manch in Gandhi Peace Foundation while attending the Media Meet on 12th February for putting forth the demands of urban informal sector workers in front of media person. She reached 15 minutes before the scheduled time. This gave me enough time to talk to her and get to know about her. Our conversation started with general introduction about each other. She was looking very enthusiastic for the meeting and kept looking at the watch. She said, “We all should come for any meeting a bit early so that the meeting starts on time.” I then realized that time is money and who knows it best than the people from informal sector.

Purnima lives in Bihari Basti (Slum) near Shastri Park Metro Station since 1985. The settlement is resided by around 2000-3000 people mostly working as vegetable sellers, rickshaw pullers, vendors, hawkers on daily basis. The ‘slum’ is inhabited in majority by both Hindus and Muslims. Like many slums it also lack basic infrastructure. Which is a cause of concern for Purnima.

When told to share about the problems they face in slums she raised the issue of women safety as something that requires immediate attention. She said, “Women in Delhi are unsafe but women slums are at greater risk.” While they are victims of domestic abuse, women also experience harassment, rape and violence outside of the home. Men go out for work but many women stay back home in Bihari Basti. They are victim of many social problems. Thus economic empowerment is important. They are not mentally prepared to go out and work. So best would be to provide them vocational trainings and home based jobs.

Ms Poornima disclosed that the situation of women and children is pitiable in slums. They are exposed to various social problems such as prostitution, drug addiction, rape, murder, theft, gambling to name a few and when we complain to the police they also support the wrong doer. She said, “we understand that education for our children and we do send them to school but in government school there are lots of other problems to which the children become prey.”

When asked what is your prioritized demand as the vice president she said “Both women and children residing in slums are not safe. Safety for both of them is our priority.” Enlisting certain demands for their slums she demanded for:

a. education for our children,

b. home based employment for women,

c. orphan home,

d. old age pension,

e. land tenure rights.

In the enlisting land rights are put at the end her first and foremost demand was safety for women and children.

Not that Ms Purnima is only advocating for change she has formed an organization named Sharda Foundation to work on the above mentioned demands. She has opened a Sewing Machine Centre for women in her Basti. She is actively filing complaints against the anti-social elements in her slums along with the other members of her foundation.

I feel that Ms Purnima is an aware citizen, she has knowledge about the place she residing, she is aware about her rights and especially those rights which are denied to them, she is a leader and advocates about the cause of other people in her area, she within her capacity is trying to make change in the lives of urban poor women of her area.