Drivers, conductors and passengers onboard Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses will soon be on the radar of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Though, the move is aimed at instilling confidence among women travellers, regular users of BMTC buses are not sure whether the cameras can clip the ‘indecent acts’ that often occur, while on the move. While some question the efficiency of such a move, others demand assurance whether their travel will be made 100 per cent safe or not.
WILL IT WORK?
“How will this make any difference?,” asks Samarpita Samaddar, woman activist. While a few women feel that this initiative might make a difference; others are quite skeptical about the whole issue. “I will not feel safe at all taking a bus at 10 pm whether cameras are installed in the bus or not. Of course, this move by the authorities is welcome but there are several underlying issues here. Around the time we had organised Skirt the Issue, the issue of conductors harassing women came up. For instance, bus conductors groping while women got off at their respective stops is one of the most common issues,” she said.
Likewise, many women who use buses to commute everyday feel that monitoring buses with the help of CCTV cameras might not help reduce such episodes as those who misbehave will continue to do so without any fear. “Frankly I do not have much hope with this move. I am sure many women have experienced problems from fellow-male passengers. Many a times, men brush past against us intentionally and say that they can’t help it as the buses are very crowded. In such cases, no one comes to our rescue. Even if women try to take a firm stand against misbehaving men, we are quickly silenced, “ said Jeevitha, BA student.
Both Aarushi Saxena, a fashion designing student, and Alisha Murugesh, an engineering student, felt that installation of cameras will make no difference unless the authorities are planning to do something with the footage.
“There are some things that just cannot be caught on camera. For example, people harassing you with their looks and passing lewd comments. There won’t be solid proof against them in such cases and the offender will get away easily,” said Alisha. Surabhi Shastry, an IT professional, is doubtful that this initiative will work in all cases. Though she feels that it will be easier to keep a tab on hoodlums, she is uncertain if this system is foolproof.
“If the buses are extremely crowded, I don’t think the cameras will be of any use as people will misbehave anyway and it might not be captured. Will the cameras be really be useful when passengers are travelling late at night, and there is just one girl on the bus? Moreover, it is not enough if the cameras are just installed; they also will have to be in working condition all the time. So, they have to plan how they will deal with vandalism and maintenance beforehand,” she said.
While many mistrust the system, some still have their faith intact. Aakriti Agarwal, a student, has had several horrifying experiences while commuting by buses but feels that installing CCTV cameras might just be the solution to all such issues. “The stretch of road from Banashankari to Kanakapura Road, where my house is located, is not very safe and there are hardly any AC buses plying on this route. Being groped or subjected eve-teasing is not uncommon here. Many a times, men sit next to you just to make you feel extremely uncomfortable,” said Aakriti.
Like her, many girls believe that they would feel more safe if CCTV cameras were installed in buses not only because the recording can be used as evidence, but also people will think twice before misbehaving with women. In fact, Deeksha, a psychology student said that men who use flimsy excuses to finger women or pass sleazy comments in buses will be on guard.
While majority of the people take advantage of the fact that they cannot be convicted merely on the basis of verbal assurance, Anjum Parvez, Managing Director, BMTC, is quite confident that the installation of cameras will encourage more and more women to come forward to report such incidents. Likewise, these recordings will also prove to be extremely useful during a police investigation.
“More than often, women travelling by buses, especially late at night, have to put up with several miscreants. Some of the issues women face on a regular basis include groping, eve-teasing and verbal abuse. The whole idea behind installing CCTV cameras in BMTC buses is to instill a sense of fear or deterrence towards such activities. Obviously, people with major psychological issues who cannot help but indulge in such petty acts have no hopes whatsoever but to an extent I am confident that this will help reduce crime rates in buses to a great extent in the long run, “ said Parvez and further added that with substantial proof, offenders can no longer escape citing lack of evidence.
NON-AC BUSES IN FIRST LOT
According to Parvez, the BMTC contemplated setting up a system that would monitor cameras live. However, they soon realised that it might not be a feasible option to keep a track of 6,500 cameras in real-time.
Around Rs 1.5 lakh will be spent on each bus and the funds will be used from the BMTC budget. In two or three months, the first phase of the project will go live. We will first install 500 cameras in local buses and see how the response is.
“We are currently targeting non-AC buses as the number of cases reported are higher there than Volvos. There will be two dome cameras installed in each bus. Each of them has a 70 degree viewing angle, thereby, covering all angles. Blind spots will be minimised to a great extent. Moreover, each of these cameras have a 48 hour backup. Also, the recordings will be stored in a storage facility at the depots for at least six months after which they will be disposed off,” he said.
WE’LL GET UPPER HAND: POLICE
Many feel that the laws need to be more stringent and offenders have to be prosecuted. Unless and until the law enforcement agencies crack the whip on regular offenders, no amount of vigilance and security measures will ensure safety of women on buses.
Any crime involving gross moral turpitude should be dealt with severely. “Most of these cases -- groping and eve-teasing -- come under ‘Outrage of Modesty’ and frankly, very few come forward to bring these cases to the notice of authorities.
The installation of cameras will give us an upper hand to catch culprits red-handed. At least, regular offenders will now hesitate to commit such crimes in buses,” says S Murugan, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), East.
He added that public outreach programmes must be conducted to spread awareness on the importance of safety and condoning such frivolous acts.
(With inputs from Sharanya Khosla & Sandeep S)