Ladies compartment @ Delhi Metro!

The metro was touted rightly as Delhi’s pride. Throughout those long years and hours of construction and diversions, rubble and debris, we consoled ourselves thinking about the light at the end of this tunnel and quite rightly so. The Delhi metro has created an entire ecosystem, for which we didn’t even know we had spaces in our city and our heart.

Suddenly places like Chandni Chowk and Dwarka came closer home. Thousands and thousands of bus users could cut down on their travel time and have a significantly improved travel experience. Definitely a sign of a city moving with the times – the metro does up the ante on Delhi’s being a navigable metropolitan and matching up against other top cities.

But even knowing all this didn’t make the metro experience always pleasant for women. Almost two years back when I travelled in a really crowded compartment with a guy who tried to act funny, I give him a few deft kicks to keep him away. That situation ended with him backing off while loudly muttering that ‘this girl was hitting him’. But nothing in that event convinced me that someone would have come to my help had he turned violent and for the longest time since I’ve avoided the metro.

My list of woes starts and stops with the gropers. I can live with the crowds, the shoving, even the occasional terrible lack of manners people display. It’s the perverts that I can’t deal with and the congested spaces don’t offer much of an environment to do anything about it. That’s why I completely endorse DMRC’s decision to allocate the first compartment of the metro for women. This is why I’m happy to request, sternly order and yell at men in the women’s compartment to move out and not shy of encouraging the metro staff to make sure this happens. This stance has seen a lot of heated arguments, especially from men. The top ones, in no particular order are:

– this is discrimination against men (they have to travel in even more crowded compartments)
– it’s not seen in other ‘developed’ countries with similar systems
– it’s a retrogressive solution to the problem

Addressing these in the same order:

– It’s hardly fair to call it discrimination – how many men are being molested in these spaces? If they are, they have to come out and speak up more for themselves. The solution is actually more on the lines of ‘pro-women’ and to view it as ‘anti-men’ feels a little shallow
– Having used public transport in two ‘developed nations’ I don’t think argument is fair at all. I found the sanctity of space to be far higher, which was obviously a function of the numbers their systems deal with. I find this an apples to oranges comparison!
– I see the point here – how many spaces will we have to segregate to achieve respect and integration. However I can’t stand by a solution that involves several women having to suffer while they try and live their daily lives while waiting for society to achieve progress. Till we get there, this is good.

I understand why the subject is controversial, reservations of any sort always are. But I think keeping in mind the situation, the problems faced, our social problems, this is the most elegant solution. One I am happy to support and to fight for until there’s a better way.

Shruti Saxena

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