Young women working in night shifts in India can be more relaxed now. And their parents too. A software that can track the movement of the vehicles ferrying the employees has been developed.
As more and more young women join the business process outsourcing (BPO) firms that work in the nights, to suit the requirements of their clients abroad, they seem to be becoming vulnerable to anti-social elements too. Rapes and killings are reported from various parts of the country.
The firms hire cars to pick up their employees from their homes and drop them back, but the cab drivers are themselves seen as a threat to the safety of the girls.
It is in that context the new software could come in handy. It will track the car carrying the woman by linking her mobile phone with a central server. The parent's mobile phone can also be linked to the system, which will alert the office and the girl's home if the vehicle deviates from its route.
A top official of the service provider in Kolkata in eastern India said, ''We have already received a positive response from BPO units in Bangalore and Chennai. Now it's Kolkata's turn. We have installed the software in five BPO units in Bangalore. We're now having talks with the bigger BPO units in Kolkata.''
The official further said, ''Our company has tied up with VTS software which is providing a backup for this system of tracking down vehicles.''
The system works in three ways - it can generate SMSes on the mobile, caution a call centre or track a vehicle on a website. ''If the BPO can provide us with a detailed traffic map, the system will work flawlessly. Once installed, the system works in such a way that if a car carrying women employees deviates or stops somewhere, an SMS is immediately generated. This is sent to the family members connected with the central server and also to the office.''
The software can also find out the exact route taken by the car.
In another initiative, women drivers are being trained on an experimental basis. In November last a group of senior professionals announced a pilot project to train 10 women drivers for the NCR.
(The National Capital Region (NCR) in India encompasses the entire National Capital Territory of Delhi as well as urban areas ringing it in the neighbouring states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.)
Deepak Kapoor, former spokesman of Call Centre Association of India, had said the project would be executed under the supervision of a team of senior women executives from the BPO industry and NGOs which have been working towards making women financially self-sufficient.
'' The women drivers will get training from a reputed government-approved institute. Since a beginning had to be made on the issue of safety of women, we all came together to start the project. When 30% of the workforce comprises of women and they work at night, why should we feel that women drivers will face a safety crisis,'' he asked.
But then the question is what do you do about the safety of the women drivers themselves!
A major cab fleet owner of the NCR said they had started a similar project two years earlier to get women drivers pick up and drop women, particularly foreigners. "It did not work. It would be a success only when we address the safety concern of women drivers," he pointed out.
Revati Roy, who started the first 'ladies-only cab service with lady-chauffeurs' in Mumbai in March this year, said there had been a lukewarm response from the BPO industry. ''In all these months, only GE Money, Hyderabad, contacted us and we are working on a plan. We pick up and drop only women passengers. The model perhaps can be replicated in BPOs.''
On the issue of safety of women drivers, she said they were trained in martial arts and they had a better tracking system. ''When all the cab drivers are in regular touch, things usually don't get out of control. We have had no safety problem in the past eight months of our operation,'' Revati added.
Police commissioner Mahendra Lal of Gurgaon, a major BPO Centre in the NCR, admitted, ''How you find ways to ensure the safety of women drivers when they are returning after dropping the employees is a major concern.''
May be the new software could help them too.