Never get into an autorickshaw which does not display its licence number. Once the evening sets in, make sure the auto driver takes you along main roads and the routes you know. Note down the auto’s registration number and let someone know you are in that autorickshaw and how long it will take you to reach your destination.
These are some of the precautions that women using autorickshaws in Bangalore practice.
“Of the 1.5 lakh-plus autorickshaws in the city, 22,000 are with our union. There are a few deviant auto drivers who harass customers and bring a bad name to the entire community,” rued Rudra Murthy, general secretary, Autorickshaw Driver’s Union (ARDU).
But experiences of women in the city make for a harrowing tale. The recent incident where two 20-year-old Egyptian women became victims of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of auto drivers has created more fear in the minds of many women.
Neha (26), who works in a firm on Mysore Road, one day took an auto to Chamrajpet at 10:30 pm along with her colleague. “I boarded the first auto that came by and did not think much because I just wanted to get home. As we neared our destination, the auto driver had fixed his gaze at me through the rear view mirror and it got very uncomfortable,” Neha said.
When Neha and her colleague alighted, they found the driver masturbating openly. “It was disgusting. We just threw the money and ran. There was no one around whom we could even alert,” she recalled.
Vidya, an engineering student from Mathikere, narrated how an auto driver started chatting her up and began asking her personal questions till she reached her destination. “I avoided talking to him and once we reached, I saw that he was opening his zipper!” she said with horror.
Another regular commuter, Ashwini, talks on the phone when in an auto, informing her friends about the route and when she will reach her destination. She also notes the licence batch number. “Do not get into an auto without a display card and try to note down the registration number as well,” she advised.
(All names have been changed on request)