Many stakeholders have been involved in the introduction of bus priority lanes in Bengaluru – BMTC, BBMP, DULT, Bengaluru City Police, among others. The project also put the advantages of public transport at the centre of public discourse once again.
However, an important aspect that plays on our mind about public transport is our personal safety. Women especially, are always at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to safety.
We sat down for a chat with Bhaskar Rao, Commissioner of Police, Bengaluru city, on measures to improve safety in public transport. In his candid style, Rao spoke at length about his directive to taxi operators on banning the use of alternate roads to the airport, the challenges of being involved in a city development plan with multiple stakeholders, and so on.
As the former Transport Commissioner, Rao has championed the cause of public transport. He said that an important means to ensure safety in BMTC buses is to set up the smart card system, and more importantly cameras, in buses. “Smart cards will reduce the time of going through this whole process of buying tickets, getting change etc.”
The police commissioner also opined that a city like Bengaluru should never shut down. “I would want the city to stay open. Shutting down the city is like telling all the good people to go back home and the bad elements to come out,” he laughed.
But the officer also candidly accepted that the formal process of pursuing a grievance, i.e filing an FIR, is still a challenge. “The first thing our officer will do is try and dissuade you from filing a complaint. That’s because the senior officer above him will measure his performance by the number of complaints that have been registered. So until we senior officers stop doing that, this will be a problem. A lot of people also complain about the attitude of the officers. Sometimes, when you deal with unpleasant things all day long, there are bad moments,” he explained.
Rao’s recent directive to cab operators to avoid alternate routes to the airport, after an Ola driver left a woman stranded in the middle of nowhere at 3 am, had ruffled a few feathers. The woman had been forced to alight from the cab after the driver insisted on taking the alternate road instead of the tolled highway. Many say it was a tacit admission by the commissioner that the police had not been able to protect citizens. “In a city like Bengaluru, of course there are issues of safety. But no, it is not an admission – tacit or otherwise – that we are not able to protect our citizens.”
But now that the problem has been identified, would the police put measures in place to monitor the alternate road, should somebody get adventurous? “Cab operators aside, there are many of us who want to be penny wise and pound foolish. Please tell me, when you get out of an international airport and have a world-class road ahead of you, why do you have to take a narrow, dimly-lit road to save on toll?” he asked.
He was categoric that until the BBMP upgraded the alternate stretch to one of “world-class standards”, any measures from the police would wait. BBMP and other stakeholders should ensure good street furniture for the safety of commuters, Rao said.