Thursday, January 22, 2015

Making Mumbai Safer

Every day, national dailies across the country have glaring statistics on how crimes against women, children are on the rise. *Delhi is reported the most unsafe city for women in country, followed by Mumbai, Jaipur and Pune. Nearly one out of three rape victims in India is under the age of 18. One in 10 is under the age of 14. Most victims are aged between 18 and 30. According to statistics, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India.

Why can’t India’s **1,585,353 strong police force not protect its women against gender related crimes? Why can’t the culprits be rounded up and brought to justice? How many more women will be violated before the police will spring into action? Are some of the questions we ask not just ourselves, but everyone around us too. 

The brutal Delhi rape of 23-year old physiotherapy intern Nirbhaya by six men on a moving bus is an incident that will remain in our memory for a long time. We often wonder what happened post the incident, what are the officials doing, has there been any change, is it even possible to make or expect any change?
Building on this concern and the outrage she felt, Vibha Bakshi, a filmmaker, decided to peep into Delhi, the city where the Nirbhaya incident occurred and translate it into a hard hitting documentary, ‘Daughters of Mother India.’  

The 45 minute - documentary begins with Vibha, the narrator, travelling on the streets of Delhi, while she narrates the incident of Nirbhaya rape. The film shifts focus to a 7-year survivor of an equally brutal rape –Gudiya. The heart wrenching story leaves the viewers asking questions and many more questions as to how come something like this can happen in a civilized society. The documentary then goes inside  the Indian society, the Government and looks at the swift and radical changes being made in the Police, the Judiciary and community groups, who are provoking for the first time, a national dialogue on the current sexist attitudes of Indian society and how to change them.
In Mumbai, the screening followed by a panel discussion -consisting of Rakesh Maria, Police Commissioner, Himanshu Roy, ATS Chief, Poorna Jagannathan, actor, Vibha Baksi, Director, and moderator Vir Sanghavi,- had an interactive voicing of thoughts and reactions about the movie and the steps taken to ensure higher safety for women.  
Maria said that currently for the police, women’s security and sexual offenses are priority number one. A few years ago, the priority was combating underworld and organized crime. For the last couple of decades it was terrorism. But now the focus is clearly on women’s safety.
Statics show that, ninety percent of crimes against women take place within the circle of trust. Statistics for the year 2012 revealed that in reported cases, the assailants were neighbours, lovers (178), husbands (9), fathers (10), cousins (5) and friends or relatives (12). Most sexual assault cases also occur in private spaces.
Maria listed four steps the police have taken to make Mumbai safe for women. They include:
Setting up a 24 hour helpline:  ‘103’ is a helpline number for reporting crimes against children, women and senior citizens in Mumbai. Once contacted, the police will be there immediately to take action. The survivor doesn’t need to go to the police station. A jeep with a lady police office will go the survivors place and record her statement in her familiar surroundings.
Women Beat Marshall System: A first-of-its-kind initiative in the country wherein armed female police personnel will patrol the city streets on bikes, specifically to tackle crime against women. The 205 female personnel have been handpicked and imparted rigorous training, including riding bikes, using firearms, unarmed combat, wire-less communication and so on. They will also keep an eye on areas consisting of girls schools, colleges, beach fronts, and at the places where women footfall is heavy. These special squads will patrol 672 areas which are vulnerable from the women safety point of view.
Helpdesk at Police Stations: There will be lady constables manning the desks. Children, women, senior citizen will not have to wait to lodge a complaint. They will be taken to the senior most officer present in the station and help will be provided as soon as possible. 

Additional security at vulnerable spots: The police have identified 272 pockets in the city where women are vulnerable to sexual attacks. Police are posted there and a mobile jeep keeps doing rounds of the vicinity, to keep the area crime free.
Maria’s presentation was impressive and unassuming. But a lot depends on how effectively the measures are implemented. As it is reiterated a number of times, immediate response and punishment is a good deterrent. This requires that each one us needs a more alert, proactive in reporting crimes , be more sensitive towards the survivors and ensure that the system functions efficiently.
We also need more storytellers like Vibha, to show us a balanced correct picture of both the sides a story.
Click here to see the trailer Daughters of Mother India Daughters of Mother India
*Statistics quoted from Times of India, dated 29 Dec, 2014
** Wikipedia