19 July 2018 01:52 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 12 JULY, 2018

Live Your Worst Nightmare in the NCR

When travel is impossible


Take any train from any part of the country… Arrive at New Delhi Railway Station… There starts the first part of your nightmare…

As you start your walk towards the exit gates, the pace of your nightmare increases and gets worse with each step as you manoeuvre through rubble lying on broken-down platforms, dodge animals/humans/filth/porters/taxi drivers/auto drivers/crooks/surly and disinterested cops and an unending traffic of passengers.

No matter how you arrive – a passenger train/ Shatabdi/ Rajdhani (Waiting for the Tejas to add to the confusion) the experience is very much the same. Thereafter, whether you leave in a cab, auto, bus or your private vehicle of transport — the experience at the station is bound to stay with you for a long time, leaving an indelible print like no other. And I don’t mean this in a good way.

Your first glance as you step out of the train is all about the filthy environs of the station… Swachh Bharat is a pipe-dream herE. Most corners and walls are brazenly used as a public urinal and the strange whiff of mere mortals mixed with haphazardly-dumped garbage reaches your nostrils from meters away. You have to be extremely careful where you step as you may end up squashing a few body parts or maybe even causing permanent damage to yourself if you trip on the rows of bodies sleeping on the platforms. The pushing and shoving by the coolies adds to the confusion.

The nightmare gets even worse as you step out of the railway station on to the curb and have to depend on public transport to get you out of there. There is literally no space to stand or wait, cab drivers who throng the entrance area cannot be trusted, radio cabs ply at their own free will with stipulations of where to meet them or else..

It is a pathetic sight to see stressed out women passengers and young girls dealing with the stares and leers, senior citizens fraught in the pandemonium and parents with infants struggling with their baggage and trying to get some transportation. Everyone is doing their utmost best to stay clear of the horrendous traffic, noise, pollution and honking, and finally ensuring that they don’t get run-over while dodging all the rubbish and ‘paan’ splattered lanes.

I have always believed that rail journeys show you the real India and the huge differences in the country’s vastness in the terrain and people as you criss-cross the hinterland. Lately, it also showcases the bitter truth of where the country stands and the state of apathy in the government’s chest-thumping promises. Add on to this, open defecation that just doesn’t stop.

Our clean-up mission is flawed…safety for women is non-existent and the people in-charge of executing decisions are lacking in every sphere. To be result-centric, one must be ready for a long haul but first, it must all begin. The battle ahead has to be ceaseless and non-compromising. The malady has sunk in so deep that we need a complete over-haul.

The worst ordeal is when you finally get into a cab and the driver turns out to be either crazed or high on some form of substance. I often wonder if Uber and Ola and other radio cab companies even check the credentials of their drivers…do they have valid licences…have they been through any form of driving tests…do they know about road safety and traffic rules and regulations…do they ensure police verification of the drivers and examine if there were any criminal antecedents against them?

These concerns are often raised by citizens quite vociferously and yet nothing is being done about it and drivers continue to be brazen and drive dangerously.

Women are still not safe in India – Period! Unless there is a stronger vigilance kept on these drivers, crimes will continue. Companies cannot compromise on the quality of their drivers. The safety of the commuter seems to be their last priority at the moment. While I have complained about various cab drivers due to high-risk incidents on many occasions, I am not sure if anything is ever done to penalise them.

Even though in the past few years, the use of cabs by frequent travellers and office-goers has increased tremendously, the safety triggers have deteriorated. To offer great services come greater responsibilities that need to be addressed at the earliest. Not a single day goes by without an incident being reported against such taxi operators. India has been dealing with the issue of women's safety in public transport where cases of sexual harassment have also been mounting. It needs to stop.

If you finally reach home…in one piece (and not pieces)… You tend to breathe again and let out a sigh of relief. That is when you realise that all this happened in your very own NCR, What a shame!
 

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