Late-night travel on locals is a nightmare for women commuters

Published: Oct 19, 2012, 06:28 IST | Sundari Iyer |

I have been commuting on the Western Line from Vasai Road to my office in Parel for well over a year and have travelled at all hours.

For women passengers however, late night travel can be a real nightmare. The 12-car trains have two First Class compartments and three Second Class compartments reserved for women. These however transform into general compartments after 11 pm, leaving just one first class compartment for women. 

Ladies and gents compartments

The Railways introduced swanky new trains with shiny steel bars separating the two first class compartments, leaving room for ample ventilation. In the night though, these bars turn into a window of harassment, with men passing filthy, vulgar comments at women, and even physically abusing them.

After work, I have sometimes taken the last Virar local from Dadar, which leaves at 1.11 am. Passengers trickle in at each stop and the train gets quite crowded by the time it reaches Andheri. Thereafter, people enter any compartment regardless of class.

While travelling in the last Virar local recently, I was aghast when I felt a hand feeling me from behind, as the train neared Matunga station. I turned around to find an inebriated man trying to touch my shoulder. When I reprimanded him, he apologised, but to my horror continued to touch me. As it was too late in the night I was not prepared to get off the train to register an official complaint.

I remember an earlier incident involving a girl being teased by some men on the train, as a policeman dozed off on a seat in the same compartment. When I asked him to intervene, he said that since he had not seen anything of that sort happening, he could not take any action.

I carry a small pillow to shield myself from being groped and sometimes take a nap or listen to music to kill time, but this could also attract another type of harassment. Women dozing off often end up being photographed by men with mobile phone cameras. Harassment does not stop there and some Romeos pass lewd comments and make vulgar gestures even if the train is crowded. Ironically, when these same individuals hear that something similar has happened to their loved ones, they become violently angry. I fail to understand why men can’t treat other women with dignity, when they are capable of adoring and respecting their own womenfolk at home. 

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