Initiating Action Towards an Inclusive Transportation System in India

Interview with Dipti Mahapatro

Her awareness of the needs of various groups of people inspired her to come up with initiatives that will help Bhubaneswar’s public transportation system become more gender-responsive.

An inclusive transportation system is vital for ensuring equitable access to transportation services for all individuals, regardless of their background or abilities. Initiatives that aim to improve transportation infrastructure and services to ensure inclusivity has gained significant attention in recent years. One such initiative is led by Dipti Mahapatro, who has been actively working towards transforming the transportation system into a more inclusive one. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of Mahapatro’s initiative, and the steps are taken to put it into action.

Dipti Mahapatro completed her M. Phil and Post-Graduate degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. For nearly two decades, she has served the Indian state of Odisha as an Odisha Administrative Service (OAS) Officer. Currently, she serves as the General Manager of Personnel & Administration at Capital Region Urban Transport (CRUT) along with the Additional Charge of Officer on Special Duty at Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC).

The year 2018 was the beginning of her career in transport and mobility when the Government of Odisha formed Capital Region Urban Transport (CRUT) to modernise the urban mobility system in Bhubaneswar as part of the Smart Cities Mission employing a user-centric model, rather than a net cost model. CRUT is not only an organisation for her as she has nourished and witnessed it become part of creating accessible, affordable, sustainable, intelligent, safe, and inclusive public transport for all.

From the moment she joined CRUT, she knew that she had to do something that would totally transform the urban mobility ecosystem of not only the city of Bhubaneswar but the entire capital region of Odisha

The results of her beliefs

Other than the dominance of the private transit operators in the city, a significant challenge was bringing about a change in the public’s mindset and encouraging them to switch to using the public transport services offered by CRUT.

Over the last decade, the number of private vehicles in Bhubaneswar has increased almost threefold. After CRUT implemented the planning, design, and monitoring, over 57% of passengers reported shifting from other modes of transport to Mo Bus the previous year alone.

Dipti believes it is crucial to understand the needs of diverse groups of people and count on their representation to ensure that services cater to everyone equally in the transport sector.

During the initial days of Mo Bus service, having female conductors was unimaginable in Odisha. But she stressed the stringent policy of including a 50% female Mo Bus Conductors goal.

Dipti also mentioned that today, three years down the line, 40% of our drivers are women and people have accepted this as a welcome change in society, especially our female commuters.

She also leaped, bringing the transgender community into the mainstream mobility sector.

I envision that one day we will also have women and transgender drivers of Mo Buses. To achieve this, CRUT has planned to facilitate Heavy Motor Vehicle Driving Training exclusively for these two gender groups.

Dipti Mahapatro

She hopes initiatives like these could strengthen Bhubaneswar’s gender-responsive public transport ecosystem.

Mo E-Ride is a one-of-a-kind project in the country

The pandemic pushed the vulnerable sections of society into further destitution. With reports on the increase in domestic violence against women during the lockdown and the poor conditions under which the transgender community was barely surviving, Dipti felt something must be done urgently to empower these people. This led her and the team to conceptualise the Mo E-Ride project, where women and transgender people have been trained and recruited as ‘Sarathis’ (drivers) of E-Rickshaws.

Today, these Sarathis fill my heart with pride, much like the slogan of Mo E-Ride – ‘Ride with Pride’ – as it truly speaks of the incremental change that the society is witnessing towards transforming into what CRUT had envisioned.

Dipti Mahapatro

In the mobility shift, women must play a significant role as change agents; at least, that’s what Dipti is trying to say with her acts and her view on the importance of gender inclusion in the public transportation industry are based on the concept that different gender groups encounter diverse situations drive change in Odisha. From the user perspective, the infrastructure of transit services provided should be designed in a manner that is gender sensitive.

It’s time to step out of the patriarchal mindset, step into the shoes of the public, step towards bringing inclusivity and accessibility, and step forward to embrace a sustainable future.

The initiative into action for an inclusive transportation system such as Mo Bus and Mo E-Ride led by Dipti Mahapatro is a crucial step toward creating a transportation system that works for everyone. By addressing the unique needs of different communities and individuals, this initiative has the potential to improve access to transportation services and enhance mobility for all. Through continued efforts and collaborations, we can build a transportation system that is truly inclusive and benefits everyone in society.

NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag. It supports China, India, and Viet Nam as well as regional and global decarbonisation strategies to increase the ambition around low-carbon transport. 

©Dipti Mahapatro

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