Issues and challenges in India

The transport infrastructure of a country is a key to economic development, and gives people the means to access job opportunities, education, recreation, and medical facilities. However, issues of overcrowding of buses in peak hours, deserted and ill-lit streets and bus stops, poor crew conduct, absence of crime preventing elements and women’s perspective in infrastructure design make women feel vulnerable while travelling in India. These issues often result in restricted mobility and missed employment opportunities, which is reflected in India’s female to male work force participation ratio (34.5%), which lags many African and Asian countries. A survey conducted in Mumbai in 2019 revealed that 31% of surveyed women reported commuting as a barrier to working. A survey conducted in two cities of Kerala by the organization SAKHI in 2010 revealed that around 93% of the surveyed women restricted their mobility due to fear of harassment. The root cause of these issues is the failure to understand women’s travel pattern and the under-representation of women in the transport sector. Women depend more on non-motorized and public transport and often combine multiple activities (care work, work, shopping etc.) per trip as opposed to men who generally travel for work. Further, women have limited access to a private vehicle. As for representation of women in transport sector, it was only in 1980 that Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) hired the first 2 women as ticket collectors. Even today, women are generally found in administrative departments of the sector and not in technical fields and decision-making positions, which leads to the absence of women’s perspective in planning and implementation of the transportation systems.

Gender mainstreaming within the program

The SMART-SUT project was initiated in 2017 with an objective to plan and implement improved, efficient, and sustainable urban transport systems in selected Indian cities. The project follows a multi-level approach, supporting the partner Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), three partner States, and selected partner and upscaling cities from these states. Together with our partners, we focus on improving their transportation systems integrating social and gender equity solutions. To integrate the gender perspective into our program, the following indicators were defined:

  1. One planning document in each of the selected partner cities for operationalizing sustainable urban transport includes the perspective of social inclusion
  2. In 2 out of 3 states campaigns on sustainable and gender-sensitive urban transport are implemented in a results-oriented manner

For the first indicator, we have developed these documents: 1) Gender Sensitive Reforms in Public Transport Systems in Kerala (details on next page), and 2) Low-Carbon Mobility Plan 2040 for Bhubaneswar, a strategic vision document that focuses on safe and affordable mobility options for all residents to improve quality of life while protecting the environment and addressing global climate change. Targets such as accessibility and inclusion have been set in consultation with city officials and key stakeholders. One indicator of inclusion is the share of women in public transport ridership, which is to be increased from the baseline of 7% in 2019 to 40% in 2040. Based on the document, the initiative to launch electric rickshaws as last mile, with marginalized groups such as women, transgender and HIV positive adults as drivers (Wheels of Change) was conceptualized.

For the second indicator, we are supporting Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) towards conceptualizing a campaign on KSRTC transformation including an integrated gender component (recently launched) and Capital Region Urban Transport (CRUT) in the “Ride with Pride” campaign for the “Wheels of change” project.

In addition to these two indicators, social inclusion was also included in the indicators: 1) Transport planning based on result-oriented data management in line with state standards is implemented, and 2) Institutional capacities concerning planning and implementation process for sustainable urban transport projects are perceived to be improved. City buses in Bhubaneswar and Trivandrum now issue gender-disaggregated tickets, which will contribute to informed decision-making. Through trainings and webinars at national level, SMART-SUT has also enhanced the capacities of institutions and individuals.

Examples of all these initiatives are given below.

Gender sensitive reforms in public transport systems in Kerala

The project was initiated in 2019 in collaboration with the Transport Department, Government of Kerala, to assess the issues faced by women in using public transport and frame recommendations accordingly. Around 1700 women from 3 cities of the state were consulted through Focus Group Discussions (500) and a perception survey (1200) to understand issues and perception of women towards safety and transport infrastructure systems. In addition, the assessment of infrastructure (bus, metro, first-last-mile connectivity) and key initiatives of the Kerala Government were undertaken. Based on identified issues, recommendations were framed towards institutional framework, data collection framework, infrastructure development, women work force participation in the transport sector as well as training and awareness programs. Considering the recommendations, specific actions plans with short-, medium and long-term measures for all key stakeholders – KSRTC, Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), Kerala Motor Vehicles Department (KMVD) – were prepared and handed over. The data collection framework developed for the transport department sets out indicators that lead to assessment and planning of the public transport system, the first and last mile connectivity, and track women’s employment in the organization.

“Various agencies are in process of exploring how the suggested measures can be implemented”
K.R. Jyothilal IAS, Principal Secretary, Transport Department (webinar: Gender and Mobility)

Former CEO, KMTA, Mr. Jafar Malik, went on print media and said that KMTA will explore how the suggested measures can be implemented.

Outcome and expected impact:

As one result of this study Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has already initiated gender ticketing through the new Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETMs) procured by them, which are currently operational for 2 routes in the city. Further, SMART-SUT has also supported KSRTC in developing an ETM based tool for route analysis and monitoring (E-TRAM tool), which can provide female ridership of the system. Analysis of this data will help the partners in planning a better public transport system for women. KSRTC, with the support of SMART-SUT, has also conceptualized a campaign to transform KSRTC, including a component of gender and mobility, and focusing on zero tolerance towards harassment of women. In addition, transit maps with information on women helpline numbers are being designed.

Link for the study: Gender sensitive reform in Kerala – WomenMobilizeWomen

Bhubaneswar in Odisha: Spearheading the transformation of women’s mobility

Capital Region Urban Transport (CRUT), agency responsible for providing public transport services ‘Mo-bus’ is working towards transforming women’s mobility experience. CRUT has partnered with SMART-SUT and has taken up several initiatives on improving women’s mobility:

Wheels of Change: Women and Transgenders drive the Electric Mobility Revolution in Bhubaneswar

CRUT and GIZ came together to pilot a first of its kind e-rickshaw feeder system ‘Mo E-ride’ which will be driven by women, transgender, and other marginalized communities like HIV positive adults. ‘Mo E-Ride’ is intended to be launched in January 2022 as a safe and organized feeder service to the public transport system. The project will start with 50 e-rickshaws and 100 beneficiaries in the first phase, for which SMART-SUT has provided financial and technical support.

SMART-SUT has also partnered with ARUNA, a development organization in Odisha that works to improve the lives of marginalized groups. ARUNA has supported CRUT and SMART-SUT in identifying beneficiaries for the project and their training.

As part of the project, CRUT with the support of Government Driving Training School (Odisha) and SMART-SUT, already provides training for the modules 1) Driving training for E-rickshaw and light motor vehicles, 2) Traffic education, 3) E-vehicle mechanism and repairs, 4) Passenger management, 5) Public relations for drivers, 6) Emergency handling, 7) Organizational rules training, 8) Operator training. The beneficiaries have undergone two-month long training program for e-rickshaw driving, financial literacy, customer interactions, and modalities for adoption of gender-sensitive approaches in transit services.

The project approach re-volves around three pillars:

  1. Gender and social inclusion: Educational and awareness campaigns themed ‘Ride with Pride’ together with targeted skill development for driving electric rickshaws for women and transgender groups. This project also offers income opportunities for low-income groups.
  2. E-mobility: Electric rickshaws as a primary mode facilitating micro-mobility and reducing air pollution.
  3. First and last mile connectivity: The project will focus towards areas across Bhubaneswar, including disadvantaged areas, to improve access to the public transport system and to provide safer mobility options for women and all citizens of Bhubaneswar.

Transportation has always been a male-dominated profession in India. Mo E-Ride is an innovative idea and CRUT happens to be the first agency to introduce women captains and guides. Through this initiative we are dealing with challenges and experimenting with beneficiaries and stakeholders”

Dipti Mahapatro, General Manager (CRUT)

Outcome and Impact:

  1. The project couples e-mobility and inclusion of women, transgender, and other marginalized communities, such as HIV positive adults; this could be a unique and promising proposition for the transit industry and regulators in India to achieve sustainability goals.
  2. The project provides livelihood and employment opportunities for the currently marginalized groups of society.
  3. From the city’s perspective, this project will provide much needed and safer first and last mile connectivity options for Mo Bus users and will help to reduce air pollution from other transport modes.

Bus Data Analytics Dashboard

Dashboard showing female ridership

CRUT, with support of SMART-SUT, has developed an online tool that demonstrates the potential of electronic and the use of GPS data to improve performance efficiency and service planning of city bus operations in Bhubaneswar. The Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETM’s) used by CRUT are reprogrammed, which allows the conductors to categorize the tickets as 1) Male, 2) Female, 3) Senior citizen (male) and 4) Senior citizen (female). The transaction reports generated by the ETMs, which contain route wise data on tickets issued at each stop, now provide disaggregated data. This data enables the analysis of women’s travel pattern and preferences, such as 1) ridership, 2) boarding alighting pattern, 3) travel demand, 4) travel preferences of female commuters.

Expected Impact:

The analysis of such data will help the agency to make informed decisions on the planning and implementation of services and transport infrastructure that are also adapted to women. This may include, for example, decisions on the introduction of women-only buses, reserved seating for women on certain routes, the targeted use of female conductors, the scheduling of buses especially during peak hours, or even the design of bus stops.

Capacity Development

Odisha: Bus Pathshala

In 2020 CRUT conducted a two-week online training program with 1300 participants from Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC) bus crews. The program included topics like crew motivation, fuel efficiency, better maintenance practices and passenger-friendly approaches and gender responsive approaches to make public transport safer for women. A special training session on gender aspects was integrated in this program.

“The fact that the safety of women is also a responsibility of the bus crew, and that they cannot turn a blind eye or leave it to the Police when an incident happens, was one of the key takeaways”

Amiya Mishra, CRUT

National Capacity Building Program

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has initiated a program under SMART-SUT that aims to build the capacity of government officials and decision-makers at the senior and middle levels, sensitize them on urban transport issues and enhance their skills. 27 officials from different Indian states participated in this program. While one training session was specifically dedicated to gender mainstreaming in the transport sector, all sessions were designed with the aim of making the transport sector more inclusive.

Learnings from challenges

  1. For women and transgender to overcome barriers to take up employment opportunities in the transport sector, trust must be instilled in the beneficiaries and their families. It is very important that the concerned transit agency handles the situation with sensitivity and considers issues women and transgender as well as their family might face. A suitable support system should be provided to develop security and trust. Since such jobs are completely new for women and transgender in India, appropriate trainings in soft skills and handling complicated situations becomes important.
  2. To conduct the perception survey in Kerala, we first initiated an online survey considering the COVID pandemic. Despite a social media campaign, only a small number of responses were received. Due to this, we had to conduct a physical survey. Reason for the low online participation could be that women have limited accessibility to digital technology such as smartphones. In addition, it becomes important to conduct physical surveys that consider social aspects to further understand women’s perspective from different income groups.

Idea for the use of the prize money

  • Development of a virtual Women Leadership Program as a 2-week program, where women leaders in transport sector will be trained by experts on topics related to gender and mobility, leadership, and project management.