#VinitasPune: Why Is It So Difficult To Understand The Agony Of Women Travellers?

Woman Traveller
Image used for representation only

It’s nothing short of hell for women passengers travelling long distance in private buses that have drivers who are inconsiderate and do not stop for toilet breaks…

Just last week, a group of friends were travelling from Indore to Pune in a private bus operated by Raj Travels.Though, this is a 12 hour journey, yet, this bus wasn’t equipped with a toilet much like most buses in India.

To add to their woes, they had a driver so inconsiderate and rude, that they were forced to control their bladders till the time they reached Pune. 

One of the travellers, Shehnaz shared , “from Pune to Indore, the bus halted twice which in itself is inadequate for a 12 hour journey. We assumed the driver would do the same on our return too, however, when he didn’t stop even after a good six hours, five of us requested him to make a halt as we badly needed to visit the loo.

The driver was rude and retorted saying that it was a non-stop bus. We had a heated argument amidst our pleas to stop, but he just didn’t.’’

Although these young ladies were distressed with this situation, not a single man in the bus helped them by requesting the driver. They all kept quiet, watching the fun. ’Tortured by this predicament, the ladies finally reached Pune and were compelled to go to a loo which was both stinking and dirty. 

This agonising experience is not a rare one; it is the story of practically every woman passenger, senior citizen and differently abled person travelling in most private buses of our country. These bus charges are exorbitant yet, they do not the provide the basics like a regular stop for the passengers.

It is common knowledge that controlling a full bladder over extended periods of time can be detrimental for a persons health.

Recently, a young college student, C Abhilasha who was travelling from Pune to Hyderabad in the air conditioned luxury sleeper of Orange Tours and Travels, approached the Consumer Redressal Forum as the bus did not stop for toilet breaks in the entire travel time and over and reached five hours late. She won a compensation of Rs.15,000 besides the ticket refund of Rs.2136.

The Consumer Fourm while awarding her the compensation observed that the onus of giving such halts to the passengers entirely rests upon the driver of the bus.

This inconvenience and the refusal of the driver to take such halts is indeed criminal and sadistic. interestingly, when men request, the buses promptly halt.

In 2015, a Bangalore citizen, N V Vasudeca Sharma had an online petition addressed to the National Highways Autority of India and Union Minister of Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari to solve the problem of the ‘horrible suffering endured by women when they travel by bus because they just don’t have any decent toilet options.’’  The petition was signed by over two lakh citizens.

What is the point of futuristic highways and smart cities if women can’t use these highways?

The petition further stated that: `Men have never had a problem because they just go behind the nearest tree and relieve themselves. Women are left with unhygienic or outright dangerous options like going into the nearby bushes, with strange men lurking around.

In a Goa newspaper, a passenger Rachel D’Costa from Panjim shared her experience. She stated that, ‘along the Pune-Goa highway, the AC bus was very cold and I had no choice but to ask the driver to stop the bus. He rudely replied to me that he won’t stop the bus and none of the men or women in the bus came forward to help me. I told him I have no option but to complain to the authorities. He stopped the bus and then refused to get on the driver’s seat to continue with the journey. These drivers have a very bad attitude when it comes to women, our safety and our hygiene.’’

The problem is just everywhere!

Perhaps, our Government can construct and maintain toilets along highways? But ultimately, it all depends on the bus operators. They should be more sensitive to the needs of their women passengers.

Till then, we will have to suffer. Like I did recently on a night bus to Coimbatore. I wish I’d not had that extra drink of water after dinner.’’ And sadly that is the solution – women starve, don’t drink water, wear the warmest of clothes – do everything in order that their bladder holds up till they reach their destination.

If you thought this is just an Indian problem, here’s a woman passenger of a bus in Peru. She writes, “Oh god, I’ve had some not so pleasant memories! First week in Peru, I had a bit of a “dose” (let’s just call it that) I had a 10hr bus journey on a bus with no loo. Thank God for the man who invented Immodium, that’s all I can say!

When I made my first trip to London in 2010, I was apprehensive about travelling by bus from London to Oxford, the destination for our conference. I beamed with smile when I saw the toilet at the rear of the bus.

Shouldn’t the Swach Bharat Abhiyaan give priority to constructing decent women toilets along highways and bring in a mandatory rule wherein the driver promptly accedes to the request by a woman passenger who needs to take that stop. 

With the powers-that-be unlikely to respond to this utmost necessity which is a fundamental public utility, maybe passengers will just have to fend for themselves and consider wearing adult diapers!


Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

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Vinita Deshmukh