Free and safe bus service for girls in Maharashtra
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Girls in Malkapur town of Satara district in Maharashtra are dreaming big. For the last four years, they have been going to schools and colleges safely and regularly. As a result, the dropout rate in school has almost come down to zero.
This has been possible because of the free bus service meant only for girls that was started by the Malkapur municipality in partnership with Maharashtra State road transport corporation (MSRTC).
My name is Prajakta Salunke, and I am one of the many girls who has benefitted tremendously from this service. The situation, however, was very different until 2013.
Girls had to rely on the state transport buses to reach their schools and colleges some located as far as 20kms away. These buses would mostly be overcrowded, and we used to face constant eve-teasing and harassment from regular commuters and male students alike. Additionally, we had to also adjust our timings with the bus schedules which meant long waiting hours for us in the sun and the rain. Both these factors were not only discomforting but also posed a threat to our safety.
As a result, many girls were forced to drop out of schools and colleges by their parents much against their wishes. They would, then either be forced to take up short courses in nearby areas or worse, would be married off early.
But the Nirbhaya incident in the national capital prompted the Malkapur administration to take proactive steps.
Girls in the state already get a 50 percent discount in MSRTC buses. The Malkapur municipality decided to pitch in with the remaining 50 percent, secured from the municipalities 'Woman and Child welfare' funds. As part of the collaboration buses meant exclusively for girls run every half an hour and cover different routes to ensure that no girl has to walk more than ten mins to reach the pickup point. Moreover, there are lady conductors in each bus which guarantees our safety.
This service has been running uninterrupted in our town for the last four years and has helped around 1000 girls so far.
I used to take these buses when I was in school. Today I am pursuing my higher education and still depend on this service. My safety has not come in the way of my dreams and ambitions.
I am one of the lucky ones. But what about the other girls in the state? They deserve equal opportunities as well.
The Malkapur model is proof that the benefits of such a service are immediate and have far-reaching implications. Why can't it then be adopted by all corporations in the state when the funds are already available?
I along with NGO Sampark want the Maharashtra govt to take up this initiative immediately so that girls in the state are not deprived of their fundamental rights.
Sign my petition. Take the lead and set an example for other states to follow.
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