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  • Siddharth Dasgupta and Avishi Dalmia

Shuttle Service, or Lack Thereof: Housekeeping, Security Staff Concerned About Transport

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

One thing I’ve learned from my two years at Ashoka is that things here keep coming and going- buildings get built, deans get changed, rules get instated overnight. Perhaps the one change we are most vocal about is the love-hate relationship students share with the shuttle service.

This conversation ranges from safety to convenience to comfort to the Uber discounts. What is also important is that students are willing and able to have these conversations.

If travel is at the center of such tumultuous discourse for people who use it mostly once a week on the weekends, what sort of conversations are people traveling to and from campus everyday having?

We spoke to two members of the security staff and two of the housekeeping staff. While they agreed to go on record for us, they preferred to remain anonymous. Here’s what we found:

Lack of Transportation Services

The university currently provides no transportation to the staff. This is especially concerning when put into context of shift timings which tend to end at odd hours, even at 3 am. One member of the security staff informed us of a staff meeting regarding safety issues during travel — she claimed that nothing came out of it.

She is skeptical of new provisions being made now if they haven’t already been made. Referring to the pandemic period, she mentioned that Ashoka had sent out shuttles to bring their workers to campus, but during the aforementioned meeting, the administration maintained that the cost of this service is not feasible in the long-term.

While our first interviewee has managed to find a travel buddy who gets off at the same time, this might not be a possible option for all the workers. Our conversations also confirmed our suspicions that safety was the primary concern of the gap in travel services.

Gendered Dimensions

There is an evident gender dimension dictating the experience of travel to and fro campus that revealed itself when we spoke to our second interviewee – a male security guard. He informed us that he travels on a bike with a coworker. He associated the word ‘safety’ to road safety and helmet related accidents which contrasted highly against our first interviewee’s answer which was characterized by crime and physical harm from other people.

Fear of Repercussions

Another significant takeaway from these conversations was noticing the hesitancy and fear in the interviewees of having their identity revealed. In two of our interviews, the interviewees were worried about the CCTVs capturing the conversation and feared repercussions of their supervisors apprehending their identity. While we couldn’t figure out if this fear of speaking out was the result of unsaid or overt communication from above, we know that this fear isn’t explained by individual explanations but is a result of institutional arrangements and communications practices.

Possible Solutions

We also asked the interviewees what they think would help the situation. One of the answers was a change in shift timings crafted while keeping safety and convenience of travel in mind. A second suggestion that arose was providing workers with the same shuttle travel services at night that students can avail.

Being in the Edict, on the student body mailing list, and even having access to the student run confessions page gives us the ability to attach a loudspeaker to our concerns. This lack of ability to directly mobilize concerns and in the process, garner support, is something that seems to be an issue with the staff. Let’s utilize our access and ensure that their safety is treated as equally important as ours.

If we, as students, have to think twice before stepping out of Ashoka in broad daylight, imagine their fear of leaving at 10pm or 2am.

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