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No reserved seats for women in Kashmir buses

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Srinagar: Even though the government’s clear instructions to reserve first eight seats for women and specially abled persons, hardly any one follows the rule.

    The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) 1988 clearly mentions reservation of 33% for women in the local buses, but its implementation is hardly seen on the ground.

The Traffic department, under the MVA 1988 Act, had issued an order in 2012 to reserve eight seats for women. But, nearly all passenger buses plying in the summer capital Srinagar are violating the rule.

“Though on paper seats are reserved for women, but we still face problems to get seats in buses. We often remain hanged in over crowded bus until male passengers voluntarily offer their seats to female passengers” said Sadaf, a private employee from Natipora.

Most of the female commuters said the seats reserved for them are occupied by male passengers. “The authorities have failed to ensure seats to the women,” Ifra Jan, another student of Kashmir University said. Adding traffic police should take strict action against those who do not follow the rules. It is really difficult for a woman to ask a man to vacate the reserved seat.

“We have never seen authorities inspecting buses and ensure reservation of seats for women,” said, another female commuter wishing not be named. 

Another elderly woman from Nawab Bazar in old Srinagar city area said: “I have been to Delhi, where reserving seats for women are very common, but in Kashmir the story is altogether different.”

She mentioned that a recent survey by a local group revealed that “if there were five women on a bus, three got harassed” and that all her friends have stories of male passengers touching and groping them.

The bus drivers, however, blame the passengers for violation of the rule. “Some passengers do not listen to the requests for vacating the seats,” a bus driver said.

Now another problem has emerged, that male passengers are now finding it easy to board the ‘Ladies Special’ buses on certain routes in Srinagar, triggering an outrage from women.

A few ‘ladies special’ buses stopped at various spots in city, the height is that the male passengers remain already seated and then the females board the same bus.

A group of female students said the government did not keep its promise of not allowing male passengers from boarding the buses.

“Why did the government start special bus services when everybody can travel in these buses which were meant for ladies only?” a college girl student asked.

“In our J&K, laws are not enforced as compared to other states where half of the seats are reserved for women.”

She said last year she regularly used to travel between Lal Chowk and Hazratbal on daily basis but many times males were also allowed to board their buses.

The ‘Ladies Special Service’ was launched in April 2017 within the summer capital. The government had asked the private bus operators to also start similar services for women but they neglected the government suggestions.

When contacted a senior official of traffic department said the department has been imposing fine and even seizing vehicles for violation of traffic rules for denying reserved seats to women.” “With limited manpower it is impossible to stop every bus,” he said.

   Another senior employee at RTO office Srinagar said there are clear instructions to impose fine and seize vehicles if any bus driver is violating rules. (KNT)

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