Nivedita Roy always carries a scarf while traveling in Mumbai’s local trains.
The 33-year-old executive says it is not fashion but a matter of personal protection that makes thousands of women passengers like her to cover themselves with scarves or “chunni.”
“It shields us from rampant mobile video recordings and also protects us from male passengers' abuse,” said Roy, who commutes between Nallaopara and Bandra, two suburbs in the western Indian city.
Peeping toms in adjoining coaches have become “so embarrassing” for most women in Mumbai. Sometimes these Romeos are drunk and “we don't have a choice."
Some complain that steel-bars separating the coaches have sufficient gaps for the men to grope and tickle the women. This has led women groups to demand the rail authorities to install steel sheets between coaches for men and women.
Nazima Sayed, vice-president of Rail Pravasi Sangh, said as such incidents are on the increase her organization has asked the authorities to solve the problem immediately.
Women passengers, she added, have telephoned her crying bitterly, saying they don't have an alternative but to take the local train, and can't avoid traveling at night.
Railway officials, too, have admitted that the problem has existed for a long time and they are frequently bombarded with complaints.
“We have noted down the grievances and forwarded it to the concerned departments. But, they are turned down, as they are marked as merely suggestions from female passengers," said a senior railway official, on condition of anonymity.
A railway spokesperson A K Singh said the steel rods help female passengers during any emergency.
"Our first priority is women's safety. The basic purpose of such a partition is that it is for air ventilation, and also if any miscreants board the ladies compartment, male passengers can help the female passengers. If required, we will carry out necessary modifications."
India: The winter session of parliament is slated to commence on november 26.