In a major 'Unlock' initiative, the Maharashtra government on Friday announced it has allowed all women to commute by local trains at certain hours, starting from October 17.
However, later on Friday evening, the Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) refused to oblige without getting the green signal from the Railway Board, and working out the necessary modalities to permit women commuters.
In a letter to the General Managers of Western Railway and Central Railway, the state government said all women must be permitted to travel by local trains from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. till the last service.
All women with valid tickets/passes shall be permitted travel during these hours without requiring the QR codes, besides the existing emergency/essential workers who are allowed, said state Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation Secretary Kishor Raje Nimbalkar.
The state government also requested the two railways to augment the number of services currently being operated to cater to the increased demand.
Women comprise around 40 per cent of the total 85 lakh commuters and the move would help lakhs of women office-goers in the government and private sector, academics and other sectors who need to travel by the Mumbai local trains daily.
Presently, the women are compelled to spend around 4-5 hours daily only in commuting by roads from distant suburbs which takes a toll on their mental and physical health, besides affecting their responsibilities both at home and workplaces.
Sources in both the CR and the WR, however, said that it would not be possible to permit women commuters without adequate planning in view of the Covid-19 restrictions and the potential extra crowds at all suburban stations in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad.
"We need to know the estimated quantum of women passengers who will be commuting to enable us to decide how many additional services shall be required, including the Ladies Special trains, security for the women commuters, etc," a senior official, who declined to be named, told IANS.
Both railways have sought a meeting with the state government to work out these modalities and after the clearance by the Railway Board, it is expected that women commuters may be allowed by next week.
However, from Monday, Mumbai Metro will also resume services which will help ease the woes of the women commuters.