Goa’s women commuters get their ‘ladies’ specials’ (Goa newsletter)

Panaji, May 4 (IANS) Tired of being squeezed in and out of buses, which even the proverbial packed sardines would tend to avoid, Clara D’Souza is waiting for an extended miracle from Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar – more ladies’ specials.

Why can’t the technocrat chief minister, who with one stroke of a pen slashed petrol prices by Rs.11, give me a safe bus ride to and from college, asks the Anjuna resident, who’s just heard that the state’s first ladies specials have been launched on four select routes. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live anywhere near them.

D’Souza might just have to wait for a few months until more routes are identified, but for Lydia Travasso her “harassment free” journey began this week.

“It’s very good. There is no tension. Men used to harass us earlier. They wouldn’t acknowledge reserved women’s only seats. They used to brush against our bodies. It was an ordeal,” Travasso, who on Tuesday took her first ride on the first ladies special operated by the state-run Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC), told IANS.

She wore a smile and carried a bouquet handed over to her by the chief minister, who ushered in a bevy of excited women commuters aboard.

“It’s a good concept whose time has come. It was not possible to do it 10-15 years ago. Now there are enough women who travel these routes regularly,” said Parrikar.

He has been vocal against sexual harassment of women in public transport, admitting it was a “huge problem”.

“Crime is the highest in public buses. There is a huge problem there,” he said earlier this year, while mooting the concept of ladies specials that admittedly are not uncommon in other more urbanized centres in India.

And with the kind of interest that the experiment has generated, especially among young commuters like D’Souza, who travels 10 km every day from her home in Anjuna to her college in Mapusa, the ladies specials are here to stay.

According to KTC chairman Carlos Almeida, the buses are currently plying on the Panaji-Margao, Panaji-Vasco, Panaji-Ponda and Panaji-Mapusa routes that connect all of Goa’s major urban centres.

“This is only the beginning. We will rationalize and expand the routes soon,” Almeida said.

He also said the corporation is open to hiring women drivers for the ladies’ specials.

“If we get a few women drivers it will be great,” Almedia said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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