First Female Bus Driver In Delhi Just Started Work, & It's A Move Toward Safety For Women On Public Transportation

In one of the most overpopulated cities in the world, public transportation is a pretty key resource. As anyone living in midtown Manhattan knows, it's tough to navigate a city where car travel is virtually impossible at many hours of the day. Every major urban center approaches this problem differently: In New York, most people use the subway, while in other cities like Delhi, buses are the most common form of public transportation. They're cheap, easy to use, and there is no confusing technology involved (*cough* monorail). And to make things better, Delhi's system just got an upgrade: The first female bus driver in Delhi just started her route.

In this major Indian city, the bus service — Delhi Transportation Corporation — is so popular that they can't keep up with demand. The city is facing unprecedented bus shortages, leading transport minister Gopal Rai to announce this week that the city will add 1,000 more buses to their regular service. Currently, the bus systems runs about 1,500 vehicles, but until yesterday, none of those buses had a woman at the wheel. Vankadarath Saritha, 30, now runs Bus 543. This isn't her first driving gig — she drove an auto rickshaw for years before applying to become a bus driver. According to India's Headlines Today, Saritha was selected as one of only seven women who applied to the job.

Saritha told The Indian Express:

She said she would be a responsible driver, fulfilling all her duties, including looking out for the safety of her passengers. She told The Indian Express:

And she told Business Standard:

Rai said the DTC would "explore ... making appointments of more women drivers in the future."

So, why is it such a big deal that Saritha is the first woman bus driver in the city? Unfortunately, public transportation does not have a history of being an especially safe place for Indian women. Sexual assault on buses is such a common problem that Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation plans to run a fleet of women's-only buses, which will operate both on long routes and within the city. UPSRTC also plans to install CCTV cameras in the buses to monitor passengers' conduct. Regional service manager Jaideep Verma said:

The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, has already implemented women's-only buses to curb sexual assault, but there are no female drivers even within that system. Dharma Raj Rimal of the National Federation of Transport Entrepreneurs told Reuters:

So major props to Saritha, who is helping to change the face of public transportation in India, one bus at a time.