Public spaces, crowded streets and buses still remain dangerous places for a woman who is travelling alone at night. Many of the sexual harassment cases still remain unreported. DURGA panic alarm is a new project by DURGA (Dare to Understand behaviour, Respond appropriately and Guard ourselves Ably), to ensure the safety of women travelling in buses.
DURGA is an initiative started by Priya Vardharajan to empower women to identify the social behaviours that would impact them and act on it. “Women should be allowed to talk about fears, negotiate better and access public spaces. We often ignore sexual harassment of a milder nature. It is very important to address these aspects of harassment. There is not enough awareness given about the potential dangers of the situations. In DURGA we aim to prepare women to deal with the potential dangers that they face in the society”, she says.
The BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) has signed a pact with DURGA and 50 BMTC buses would be equipped with DURGA panic alarms by the end of the month. The alarms, each of which cost about Rs. 6,500, is designed by the students of M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology and manufactured by a Bengaluru-based firm. There are a series of switches placed on either side of the bus on the panel between the windows. The alarms are places in such a way that even a child can access it in times of emergency. When a switch is pressed, it activates an alarm which will alert anyone inside and outside the bus.
When the alarm is triggered, a buzzer beeps for 20 seconds. The alarm will also turn on flashing lights installed both inside and outside the bus to attract the attention of the commuters on the road and even the police. If the alarm is not turned off the buzzer will continue to beep every ten seconds. The driver of the bus has to mandatorily stop the bus to check if any passenger is distressed and resolve the issue before turning off the switch. The alarm in a way encourages passengers to ensure safety of the other passengers.
There are pictorial representations of how the alarm works to aid the passengers with language barriers. “Working women face various forms of harassment in public places every day. Even if people see a woman being mistreated no one comes forward to help her. This mentality has to change”, says Sherinmol Ciril, an employee in Hewlett- Packard.
The alarm helps the victim confront the perpetrator without having to address the person directly. “The large part of women we worked with have faced harassment in public spaces and chosen not to react because of the fear of victim shaming. DURGA panic alarm helps the victim to make the assault known by remaining anonymous,” explains Priya Vardharajan.
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