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Indian Railways protects women in an unusual way

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To ensure the safety of women on Mumbai suburban trains, the Indian Central Railway (CR) has suggested that the exterior of ladies compartments be painted in “soothing saffron” to inspire “courage and valour” among women and “sacrifice and chivalry” among men according to Indian media sources.

This latest proposal seems to be in line with the campaign to inject the Hindutva ideology into sociocultural and sociopolitical domain through the use of government tools.

Government schools and even hospital are getting saffron painted along with benches in public parks. And all this is being done on the tax payer’s expense.

In a concept note submitted to the Railway Board Thursday, Pranav Kumar, additional chief security commissioner, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Central Railway, stated, “Exterior of coaches/compartments reserved for women passengers should bear different colour from other coaches of the train. Soothing saffron colour is suggested.” This was one of the six new measures suggested by the CR to strengthen security of women commuters.

“Saffron colour, which signifies courage, valour and sacrifice, will inspire women passengers to rise against male encroachers, and male passengers will desist from entering into coaches reserved for women passengers as sacrifice and chivalry on their part,” the one-page note reads.

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According to RPF officials, the Railway Board had on Wednesday asked for information on action taken by each railway zone to ensure the security of women commuters and children. Giving each zone a day’s time to respond, the Board had also asked for ideas that the Railways could implement in the next year. The move was prompted by incidents of crime against women travelling in Mumbai local trains over the last two months.

Towels, sofas, curtains in the chief minister’s secretariat have also gone saffron and now even tents put up during various functions that Mr. Adityanath attends, are orange in colour.

“Many a time, male commuters enter the ladies compartment by mistake. As each coach bears the same colour, it becomes difficult to differentiate between coaches. By giving it another colour, we only mean to differentiate it from other coaches, so that could alert male passengers from entering the coach,” Kumar said.

“Saffron is a soothing colour. It is bright and eye-catching. What we meant to say is any bright colour like red, yellow, if painted on the coach, will differentiate it from others,” Kumar said. A senior CR official said that “the Railways is aiming at declaring 2018 as the year for safety of women and children” on trains.

Each of the 12 coaches of a Mumbai local train has a uniform colour, which is based on the type of rake. On both CR and Western Railway, there are three coaches earmarked for women commuters in local trains, with one located behind the motorman’s cabin, another in the middle, and the third three coaches away from the guard’s cabin.

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Male passengers are restricted from entering or travelling in these compartments. However, men are allowed to use some compartments reserved for women after 11 pm until 5 am. The CR has registered 2,411 cases of illegal entry of male passengers into women-only compartments under section 162 of the Railway Act this year so far. The accused face forfeiture of their railway passes or tickets or a fine, which may extend to Rs. 500.

Many observers cite it as being used as a tool to play with Hindu sentiments. The BJP CM of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adatyanath is particularly notorious for having spread the color all around his constituency.

In October, a 13-year-old girl jumped out of a moving local train near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus when a man entered the ladies compartment and refused to leave. On December 3rd, a 27-year-old man was arrested for allegedly robbing and pushing a young woman off the ladies compartment of a suburban train in Navi Mumbai.

The Saffron color has grabbed local headlines as it is the official color of the Hindutva movement. Many observers cite it as being used as a tool to play with Hindu sentiments. The BJP CM of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adatyanath is particularly notorious for having spread the color all around his constituency.

It began with the Sachivalaya getting a saffron coat of paint and then roadway buses and electric poles turned into a vibrant shade of orange. Saffron colored school bags were distributed to children in government schools and the official government directory came in a saffron cover. Towels, sofas, curtains in the chief minister’s secretariat have also gone saffron and now even tents put up during various functions that Mr. Adityanath attends, are orange in colour.

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Marigolds are used for decorations and roses are out. Even the clock in the Vidhan Sabha has turned saffron and so have the soap bars in the washrooms. Government schools and even hospital are getting saffron painted along with benches in public parks. And all this is being done on the tax payer’s expense.


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