<br>According to 23-year-old Akansha Yadav, a DTC bus marshal, appointed in October 2019, often they have to deal with criminals, but the lack of weapons is a handicap in performing their duties.
“There are eve-teasing, pick-pocketing and other small incidents like a verbal spat between people. We have to ensure the security of all the passengers on the bus. We do that with a lot of pride. But lack of any security weapon makes us weaker before the criminals,” she said.
It has been four months into the service and she said she had caught about a dozen people red-handed.
“Everything is not worthy of police interference. If some woman is saying someone is teasing her, we have to intervene and act. We anyway keep a close watch on the passengers and their actions. We sometimes stop a person even before the crime,” she said as she recalled an incident where she saved a man's mobile phone from a pickpocket.
For DTC marshal Sapna, the job gives her satisfaction and pride but there are issues which should be considered.
“We don't get Diwali bonus, unlike the conductors, drivers or the other DTC employees. We are working with equal dedication but there is nothing for us. We don't get weekly offs. There are only two offs per month. If we need a day off more than this, there will be a pay-cut. There is no job security for us. Also, there is no security for us on the job.”
For Sapna, the lack of any weapon causes a lot of issues in dealing with “criminal-minded people”.
“Not everyone is polite. We also have to face criminal-minded people. At least a stick will help. My height is a little less, people do not take me seriously when I ask them to behave properly.”
Sapna said she was a teacher before she was appointed as the marshal.
“I always wanted to be a police person, but because of the height, I was rejected. A lot of girls with less height were recruited with me. The lower height limit was 4'11” for the marshals in the DTC,” she said.
It was in 2015 that the Aam Aadmi Party government had decided to deploy trained marshals in all buses plying in the national capital to put a check on incidents of eve-teasing and violence against women, however, till October only a few buses were running with the marshals.
“Now, almost all the buses have a marshal. They work in an eight-hour shift. While most of the marshals have fix shift and fixed bus routes, there is a handful of them kept in spare, and are used when someone is on leave is deputed somewhere else,” a transport department official said.
The marshals in the cluster (orange) buses are from civil defence while those in the DTC (green and red) buses are a mix of both civil defence and home guards, the official said.
“These marshals are from the Home Guards and civil defence who are well trained to prevent untoward incidents, particularly, violence against women in public transport buses,” the official said.
For another DTC marshal, 32-year-old Manoj, weapon or even a stick would be enough to make him feel safer.
“It is not just inside the buses, but we also step down. Most of us have fixed shifts and routes. What if a criminal is keeping a watch on us and attacks.”
Manoj too said he had saved people from pick-pockets a lot of times. “I feel good that we are able to help people,” the Sonia Vihar resident said.
According to Deepak, a home guard and a DTC marshal, the home guards are a little more privileged than the civil defence personnel.
“The home guard personnel used to work with the police before they were deployed on the buses. They have coordination with the police. But the civil defence officials have never worked with the police and they usually don't have very good coordination with the police, and also are not aware about the law,” said Deepak, sharing his personal observation.
He said the home guards also have experience of dealing with the criminals.
“We are dealing with criminals on a daily basis. Security of both male and female marshals are at stake. Not just buses, but we step down and go out, what is the gurantee that the criminals will not harm us later? The civil defence are more prone to threats,” he added.
Deepak said it has been over four months and they don't even have identity cards.
“We cannot show our appointment letter all the time. If the government feels that we should not be given any weapon, at least there should be a medium for us to communicate with the police faster. The panic buttons also don't work on the buses,” Said the 40-year-old.
He went on to say that the civil defence comes under the revenue department.
“There is no age or height bar in the civil defence. But I feel personality matters when you are in a bus and are stopping the people from any wrongdoing. Who will listen to a man who is in the late 50s? People with criminal minds should be dealt with actively.”
He said while the home guards get their uniform from the department, the civil defence have to get it themselves.
When asked, Delhi Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said it is the first time the marshals were deployed in the buses.
“We too are learning every day. If they have such issues, we will address them in the coming time. As of now, we have not received any such demands,” Rai said.
(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])