Around 55,000 more women are estimated to have travelled on local trains on the first day of the state’s decision to allow women commuters to travel during non-peak hours, marginally restoring the gender ratio on stations. While they didn’t have to show a QR code or identity card for travel during these hours, several hoped that they could soon access the ladies’ special trains in the peak hours.
Vaishnavi Waghchoure, a teacher from Mulund, searched the ticket counter at Thane for an assurance. “Ladies can travel from today, right?” she asked a woman in a queue. “I spent Rs 40 going back home daily by auto. By train, it costs me Rs 5,” said Waghchoure, who conducts her online lessons from a class in Naupada.
Women welcome train travel, say it’s a boon for officegoers
Many working women seemed visibly delighted in their new-found freedom to travel again on local trains. From Wednesday, all women were allowed to commute on trains without an employee ID or QR code from 11am to 3pm and 7pm till the end of the day.
Among those happy to dump the work-from-home routine and return to their old work stations, was Snehal Desai (32), a chartered accountant with a Worli firm. “My office has offered a vehicle pick-up in the morning. In the evening, I can use the train,” said Desai, whose reporting timing is 9.30am. She said that some of her female colleagues have been asked to report late in keeping with the train timings.
“I can now reach office by 12pm (as against 10 am) and leave after 7pm,” said Neha Bhat (27), who works for an insurance company in Santacruz. Earlier, she used to take an autorickshaw from her Malad home.
By now, seasoned travellers like Kalwa’s Supriya Raut, a healthcare worker with a private pathological laboratory in Vidyavihar who has been commuting by train for almost two months now by virtue of her essential service, know that social distancing is a joke during morning and evening peak hours. “Three people share a seat during peak hours,” said Raut, before boarding a CSMT slow from Thane.
While she did feel a slight increase in the number of women on Wednesday, Raut—who used to travel to Vidyavihar by scooter before train services resumed for essential workers—said that she believed allowing women to travel during non-peak hours was not only a boon for officegoers like her, but also for those eager to visit relatives.
Smita Tawde, a Titwalabased banker who was seen waiting for the 1.35pm Ambernath local on Thane’s platform two. Tawde was returning home after paying her respects for her cousin, Balkrishna Sawant, who passed away last Sunday. “His father had brought us up like his own. Balkrishna had been in and out of the hospital for the last six months after an accident. I could not attend his funeral, but when the trains started allowing women, I decided to drop by to pay my respects before the 10th day,” said Tawde.
While the lack of peak-hour crowd was a welcome change for many, Madhuri Bhoir—a sari-clad staff member at a Dombivli school—seemed to find barely any novelty in her maiden train journey home postlockdown. “The only change is this,” she said, pointing to her orange cotton mask.
Inputs: Manthan K Mehta