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Is CCTV-less BMTC buses in Bangalore safer for women?

The state-owned Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has been struggling to install CCTV in its fleet, drawing acute criticism from women commuters in Bangalore.

The 2012 gang-rape in a moving bus in New Delhi brought into light the cases of sexual harassment in public transport, forcing the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to direct all the State Transport Corporations to install CCTV cameras and GPS devices.

In Karnataka too, BMTC installed CCTV cameras in 500 of its buses at a cost of Rs 4 crore to keep a check on the activities of such miscreants and perverts on the buses.

The BMTC operates a fleet of 6, 192 buses in the city. It is estimated that it costs around Rs. 68,000 for the installation of two CCTV cameras, a digital video recorder and its three- year- maintenance.

At this ratio, the corporation would need around Rs 42 crore to install CCTVs in its complete fleet. But due to funds crunch, the corporation has put breaks on the CCTV plans as it failed to secure Central funds for the project.

After the officials did not get a positive response from the Union Ministry of Women and Child Welfare after having sought Rs 50 crore from the ministry under the Nirbhaya scheme, the Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy, along with Union Minister H N Ananth Kumar, met with Women and Child Welfare Minister, Maneka Gandhi in December 2016, seeking funds for the project.

Gandhi, however, reportedly refused to fund the project as she believed that CCTV cameras won’t help in curbing sexual attacks. She instead advised the panel to make a proposal for educating its personnel about gender sensitivity and training women personnel regarding the same.

But the interactions that Automotive India News had with a cross section of people revealed the importance of CCTV in public transport system.

“Installing cameras in buses will definitely help women feel secure and acts as a deterrent to perverts. Dropping such a project is not right. The government should plug holes in the tax net to fund such projects,” said RTI activist Srinivas to Automotive India News.

He believes that the cameras will not only prevent molestation but also ensure that men do not sit on seats reserved for women and will help BMTC authorities monitor their drivers and conductors as well.

Shireen Noushad, a student from Christ University, said, “I think it is quite pathetic that we have to cut back on security of the people because our budget doesn’t allow it. Sure, tweaking budgets are definitely easier said than done, but I think in matters of safety for people, in cases of not just sexual harassment but also in cases of pick-pocketing, the state must go forth and find a way to carry forward the project”

”Shoubhik Ghosh, another student of Christ University, said, “The pre- 2008 buses are soon going to be scrapped and it is not feasible to keep CCTV cameras in the buses for just one or two years till they are scrapped as it will lead to huge loss. Moreover, the maintenance of these systems in the older buses will require a lot of funds and BMTC will surely run into a loss.”

Monica Sharma., yet another student from Christ University, noted,  “I think that CCTV cameras should be installed in the buses. If there are CCTV cameras around, the miscreants will be scared that they are being monitored and mind their own business.”

Many people believe the government buses are better than the private ones as they are safer, the speed is electronically locked at 60 km/h and the drivers and conductors are trained and legal actions can be taken if they commit any misdeed. Yet, the installation of cameras for better safety is demanded.

As rightly pointed out by one of the interviewees, installing cameras in old buses, primarily in those that were brought to the roads before 2012 and 2008, wouldn’t be a very wise decision as, first, they will soon be scrapped and installing cameras in them for such a tiny period of time won’t exactly be a very good decision and second, it is difficult to install CCTV cameras in the old buses in the very first place itself because of the way they are designed. They have high back seats and a single door in the front. After the BMTC faced fleet shortage, the back seats were shifted to the middle which makes it impractical and difficult to install cameras in the buses. Moreover, the batteries of these buses have a capacity of withstanding only an electronic display whereas the new buses’ batteries can withstand a load of 2 CCTVs, GPS and electronic display.

“We have sought funds from the state government for buying 3,000 new buses. We are expecting the money in the budget allocation. We can’t spend Rs. 40 crore on CCTV cameras at this juncture,” a BMTC official said.

It’s clear from the statement that there’s a dire need for pumping more money in the currently cash-strapped BMTC, due to which the issue of women safety and safety in general has been handed a back-seat. It seems like a case of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’ and it’s time the government realize that the safety of the citizens matters more than anything else.

-by Sakshi Srivastava

About Automotive India News

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