MILESTONE - 6th November 2023
After a conversation with officials at Pune Metro, they have promised that the service of women only coaches will be reinstated in the future. However, they have temporarily halted the service because of "low footfall." Pune Metro has also indicated that they are currently carrying out a survey to gain an understanding of the demography of the commuters.
What is the issue?
With an increasing participation of women in the labor market, in 2009, a handful of cities, namely Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, introduced ‘women only’ coaches in public transport. Soon, Bangalore and Delhi also became a part of this list. So did Pune.
But today, Hemant Sonawane, a spokesperson of the Pune Metro has announced that the ‘only women’ signs will be removed from all the Pune Metro stations. “There is no need for reservation for women passengers right now, as the footfall is low” according to him.  Shockingly, no survey on footfall of men and women passengers has been conducted yet. Pune Metro has stated that they “will plan for this at a later stage. Coaches will be reserved for women at some point in the future.”
Indirectly, this declaration means that not only will the signs of ‘women only’ be removed but so will the limited coaches exclusive to women will become open to men.
Why is this a concern?
Many studies have pointed out that safety is a major concern for women using public transport, often resulting in women who face harassment of any kind from stopping using buses altogether.  Services dedicated to women play a large role in making women and gender non-conforming passengers feel significantly safer during their commutes.
Importantly, in contrast to Mr. Sonawane’s statement regarding low footfall, through a survey on the “assessment of gender patterns in public transport: A case study of Pune City in 2018” has already shown that the women-only buses were extremely popular with the women respondents, and 90 percent of them said that such buses would “have a high impact on their everyday travel pattern.” Moreover, 54 percent of the women said that reservation of seats for women would also “have a high impact on their daily travel plan.” 
As per media, Pune Metro’s decision was declared because there is a discrepancy between the ‘women only’ sign boards at different stations. For example, when the Metro goes from Ruby Hall Clinic station to Vanaz station, the signboards on some platforms say ‘women only’ for the first coach, whereas on others this is indicated for the last coach. There is no doubt that amongst passengers this causes confusion.
This might be the reason why the Pune Metro spokesperson suggested “low footfall” in the women only coaches – because the signages are unclear and confusing, both women and men board all the coaches.
But removing the signs and consequently entirely shutting down the service of ‘women-only’ coaches does not seem to be a solution.
Rather, one way to solve this issue would be by removing mis-directing signs from stations and putting them on just one side of all the Pune Metro stations universally. Another possible solution would be to mark the coaches as ‘women only’ and instating security personnel to ensure only women enter the coaches designated to them.
Join us in urging Pune Metro, Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation, and Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority:
To continue the ‘women only’ coach service in all metros and;
Ensure that ‘women only’ sign boards on all stations are uniformly installed;
All ‘women only’ coaches are marked;
Provide a timeline for when the survey to determine footfall on the basis of gender will be conducted.
You probably know that over 50% of the women who use public transport face some kind of harassment. But did you know that less than 0.09% lodge any official complaint due to fear of not being heard or retaliation?
‘Women-only’ coaches help women feel safer during their commutes so thank you for urging the Pune Metro to keep the ‘women-only’ coach service active.
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