Safety in Delhi, Then and Now.December 15, 2013
I find myself at loss of words whenever somebody asks me if I feel safe in Delhi now? Delhi has been a home to me since last 10 years- a city that I have grown to be fond of in spite of its many flaws and also have learnt to be proud of its many plus points.
Over the years I have seen the city change with time, growing up, learning lessons, all the while trying its best to retain its old world charm and yet fit in with the newer awakenings.
Last year the nation was shocked by the Jyoti Pandey rape incident. It was a black day for Delhi no doubt but I would say it was a black day for entire humanity when Jyoti was brutally raped and murdered. It brought the people out in the streets, over cyber space, over any conceivable space and forum condemning, demanding justice. A nation tried to wake up. The city tried to wake up.
But you cannot expect a complete makeover overnight or for that matter even a year. There were rapes and molestation even after that. Figures are a good indicator of results they say but somehow I find it distasteful doing a comparative study of – this year low rapes, that year higher rates or for that matter even “My place is safer, yours isn’t”.
Women were raped. Women are still raped. Period.
But yes there has been some positive changes as far as safety and… are concerned.
I can go for a drive at night. The check points have gone up in number and are manned by policemen who don’t seem like the caricature they show in the movies. They do bother to come up to each car and light a torch in to the car to check and wave you away politely if it has a female passenger.
There are people out there –both and young n old at public places who stand up for you if you are tormented or humiliated. They are no longer afraid to be brave. They are no longer hesitant to come forward to your help.
But this is just a rhetoric view and to have a clear picture you cannot again rely on rhetoric alone.
You need figures. You need a rational approach. Hence to simplify things and put my point forward let me tackle them one by one.
Size matters –
Delhi is spread across a vast area of around 1484 sq kms. Each area has its signature appeal and minus points, sometimes the difference between two zones or areas being so marked that you wonder if you are really in the same city. So in the case of infrastructure, the mindset of the population residing there, a marked contrast is noted. I might feel comfortable roaming alone in Vasant Vihar in the evening hours in shorts while the same cannot be said about the Industrial areas of Mayapuri and Wazirpur. Driving around India gate and Chanakyapuri area is a delight while in places like Seemapuri and Shahdara, at times it becomes difficult to even get a breathing space. There, probably I will be scared to venture out unescorted even during the daytime. Without being biased, I would like to add that this isn’t something that can be avoided in a city which is completely cosmopolitan and the migrant labourers even outnumbering the original residents. Even New York had its Bronx in the sixties and seventies. So bringing the underbelly of Delhi into the greater picture of acceptance will take much effort and time. Till then the differences in the perspectives will continue.
Infrastructure and services –
There has been some noteworthy improvement in the infrastructure and public services. Malls and posh public areas have installed CCTVs and employed responsible security personnel. Some malls have even parking space for lady driven cars, while a few of them even have concierge services.
There are numerous police check points at major interstate conduit points
Metro rail has a separate ladies coach and the response time to a distress call is quite prompt too.
There are prepaid auto rickshaw and taxi services at most important points. And if not that, then auto rickshaw drivers do ply by meter nowadays. If you are having trouble getting an autowallah to take you to your destination just walk up to a traffic policeman or a beat policeman. They gladly flag down one for you.
DTC buses have become better and more chic.
You can also avail lady driven cabs; CATS ambulance fleet has gone bigger in size and is easily accessible. Helpline numbers are manned but yes I cannot shed light on the response time as have not found the opportunity (thankfully) to test it.
Resident premises have joined along with the Delhi police is an interesting scheme called neighbourhood watch scheme.
(The Neighbourhood Watch Scheme (NWS), run on the basic that law can be better enforced and crime can be better prevented with the cooperation of the people, is known to have achieved considerable success in the countries where it has been introduced. These include U.K., USA,Canada and Australia. In fact, the objectives of the Scheme everywhere are broadly as follows:
a) to reduce property crime;
b) to foster police-community relations;
c) to increase community spirit;
d) to reduce juvenile crime by getting the youths also involved in the Scheme.)
But those were just the floss and sadly some of the flaws still exist!
Lack of uniformity –
One of them being the uniformity of access of services and treatment which I had already touched in my first point. As long as the diversity of the city exists, it will take some time for the facilities, services to be uniformly and universally accessible. The reason for one being a lack of knowledge and awareness. A lady from the lower economic strata will be hardly aware of her rights and entitlement as compared to an educated independent lady.
Respect and a feudal mindset-
There isn’t much change of opinion and outlook at the matter of respect to a lady. No doubt the level of concern and care has gone up. No sane male in the city will want a repeat of last year’s incident, but that’s all there to it. The care and concern are all there, the women friendly services and all- but as far as a female as an individual is concerned, biases still exist.
For example, a lady driving in the city will always be frowned, ridiculed and sniggered at no matter how she drives. It’s a lose-lose situation for her even if she drives cautiously or confidently. Unfortunately she will be always tagged as a hopeless driver.
Work place will always be a struggle with assumptions by the male colleagues of her getting away easy irrespective of how she works.
You may feel safe in shorts but take my word a few will snort with disapproval discretely.
And this mindset is the only otherwise jarring note in a progressive city that is inching its way to be placed among the top at the global level. It is the most subtle yet most important factor contributing towards the reasons attributed to rape. Subtle hence, you cannot put a finger on it and probably the reason why it is the most dangerous. One can only detect the vibes by a slighting remark, a passing comment, a look and a malicious grin – some things which you know exists in a very abstract manner yet are menacing
And so a level of mutual respect if not fostered among the sexes and the population, you can never weed out this problem. The feudal mindset makes it all the more difficult to erase the bias and age old prejudices and practices.
Not even the most high tech of services and infrastructure will be enough for a conducive and safe atmosphere. You will be safe no doubt, but you WILL NEVER FEEL SAFE.
That brings me to the question of Self worth.
If I had to mention my private opinion, I would say – yes, I feel safer comparatively but I do not feel it safe for my daughter. I do not think it is safe for my mother either. And no, this feeling is not because of the law and order situation or infrastructure. It is about how much confident are you of yourself. I am about me relatively. But naturally I cannot say the same for my little daughter and a septuagenarian mother. Finally it comes to this –you will feel safer only if you feel that you can save yourself. No doubt you need a better law and order and infrastructure. Undoubtedly you need an atmosphere of trust and appreciation but more than that you need to trust yourself and your capabilities to utilize them and turn any situation in your favour.
That psyche is still missing at some level. That level of trust and confidence needs to be boosted finally for the city to be felt safe. However I will never approve of a city being tagged for any mishap.
Children are no more handed out punishment in school. Gone are the days when you labeled a kid Dunce and made him sit in a corner in the classroom. Why? So that it doesn’t damage and dent their confidence. So would I like to request it for any city. There is no rape capital. There are no riot cities. There can never be a terror city. There are just crimes and it affects all. You, me, them… irrespective of where we are from!
Just something we found online. A couple of musicians paying a tribute to ‘Nirbhaya’.
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