ANWESHA AMBALY, TT, Bhubaneswar, March 30: Close on the heels of a Delhi University student from Odisha being molested on the Rajdhani Express, a young woman today alleged sexual harassment by a co-passenger in a running bus. While she was tormented in the presence of 60 passengers, her desperate calls to police helpline numbers went unanswered.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik took note of the incident and directed the commissionerate police to conduct an inquiry and take immediate action while fixing responsibility for the lapses. Naveen's response was posted on his Facebook page and Twitter handle of the chief minister's office (CMO)
The incident took place yesterday morning when the victim, who gave a detailed account of her ordeal on the Facebook, was travelling from Kendrapara to Cuttack in a private coach. She also spoke to The Telegraph at length about her harrowing experience.
Speaking to The Telegraph, she said: "I got into the bus from Pattamundai, my hometown in Kendrapara district. An elderly man also boarded the bus and stood near my aisle seat. For around an hour, he kept touching me inappropriately. He stopped every time I gave him a stern look, but would soon resume his shameful act."
While she kept tweeting about her ordeal during the journey, she wrote a detailed account of the incident on the Facebook when she reached home. There, she wrote: "I was alone among 60 in a moving bus and no one turned up. Today a rape could have been successfully attempted and the helpline numbers given to us for untoward situation would have only helped the rapist to enjoy his misdeeds. Am I responsible because I m a girl? Shame on humanity!"
With no one coming to her rescue, she desperately dialled the police helpline number (100) several times but it was not reachable. She also tried the special helpline number (1091) for women, but the calls went unanswered.
"As I was near the OMP Square in Cuttack, I first tried the number 100. Thereafter, I tried the women helpline number, but no one picked up the call. It is a shame that these numbers are of no use when you need them the most. What's the point having these numbers?," she asks with obvious anger.
Her ordeal became worse when the man got a seat right behind her and began touching her inappropriately again, the young woman, who works as a content writer in the city, said.
"When the matter went out of my control, I shouted at him. But, he denied it straightaway. After a round of arguments, the conductor came and asked him to change his seat and chided me as well. He asked me not to make a fuss about it," she said and added no one in the bus came forward to help her.
In her tweets and Facebook post, she has tagged the handles of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan and the commissionerate police.
In her Facebook post she wrote that "the system is surely answerable to me" because it did not answer her calls when she was in distress.
There are around three helpline numbers to help women in distress. Apart from 1091, the helpline number (10920) of the State Commission for Women is also available. On the occasion of International Women's Day this year, Naveen had also launched a special helpline number (181) to provide assistance to women in all districts of the state.
This gives validity to the complaint of social activists that helpline numbers don't work. "We have been regularly raising our voice against this. These helpline numbers don't work when you need them the most. Such incidents should act as a lesson for the authorities," said social activist Lokapriya Kanungo.
Cuttack DCP Sanjeev Arora, however, denied knowledge about the incident. "I have no report as yet about the case. I am trying to find the facts," he said.
The girl did not register a complaint with the police as she felt it would be of no use.
"Such incidents happen daily. Many have lodged complaints in the past, but there has been no action," she said.
Chairperson of Odisha State Commission for Women Lopamudra Baxipatra said they would hold their own inquiry. "We will ask the helpline number authorities to check their records and explain why her call was not answered. We would also extend every possible support to the girl if she registers a case," said Baxipatra.