By Chetali Joshi and Sakshi Sharma
Are the tall claims made by Delhi police regarding women safety false?
"I don't think women are safe in Delhi. Just a couple of months ago my friends and I were coming back from a dinner in CP when a car filled with rowdy, and probably drunk, boys started to follow us. Even after we'd made it abundantly clear that their attention was unwanted, they continued to follow us for a good 2 kilometers, and there was not a single policeman in sight for that entire stretch. We were terrified and felt completely defenseless", says Shivangni Meena, a 23-year-old resident of Delhi. This statement comes amid the exaggerated claims made by Delhi police that crime against women has gone down in the national capital.
Crime against women has allegedly gone down in Delhi
According to the latest crime statistics released on the official website of Delhi police, crime against women has reduced in Delhi in the last three years. Reported cases of rape have reduced from 2199 in 2015 to 1731 in 2018 and cases of abduction have reduced from 556 to 227. Similarly, cases of domestic violence have gone down from 3536 to 2275. Crimes against women have been on a continuous downward spiral since 2015 with approximately 21% decline in reported cases of rape in the last three years.
Police claims stepping up its initiatives
The Delhi police credits this success to the various awareness programmes being run by the government and the police. The police claims to have been working day in and day out in order to make Delhi safer for women. "We have been rigorously patrolling the streets of Delhi to weed out anti-social elements. We have also started programmes like 'Nirbheek' in schools and colleges to teach children about good touch and bad touch", says ACP Sanjay Kumar of the Vasant Vihar police station. He further added that the Delhi police has recently constituted an all-woman patrolling squad. The squad has been guarding the streets of Delhi 24*7 and is a lot more sensitive to complaints from women. The central government has made it mandatory for at least a third of the total police constables to be women. "Crime against women can only be stopped if women are educated and independent. The government has taken a great initiative, but I feel that there needs to be more representation of women at the administrative level as well", says sub inspector Kailash.
The central government has also recently accorded a sum of Rs. 3000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund for special programmes on women safety. The Delhi police believes that Delhi is slowly, but surely, on its way to relinquishing the unwarranted tag of 'rape capital'.
On the ground, are these figures worth celebrating? The dip in crimes against women is, to put it mildly, marginal. Delhi still continues to stand at the top when compared to all the other cities in the country. So, we went around the South Campus asking women their opinion on how safe they feel in Delhi.
Delhi roads are women unfriendly at night
Despite the claims of rigorous patrolling made by the Delhi police, roads are still not safe for women. Pratyushi Mehta, a 24-year-old lawyer, says, "I have been living in Delhi for the past year and a half, and I have not really noticed any major change. There are times when I come back at 3 a.m. from office. I still have to ask someone from the office to accompany me back home because I am aware of the dangers that lurk outside. There are several patches where even today the streetlights don't function." She is certainly not the only one to think so, almost all the women we came across corroborate this fact.
Aastha, a 20-year-old student says, "As a woman, I don't feel safe traveling in Delhi. I am still not comfortable travelling in the Delhi metro at night, or taking an auto after sunset. But if the Delhi police says that the streets of Delhi have become safer for women, then I hope to god that it is true! There isn't really a lot of patrolling happening in the city, at least not as much as I'd like. And it's not as if I don't travel a lot, I do. Except for West Delhi, I have not really seen a lot of police personnel on the roads."
Delhi metro rail is relatively safer
Women in Delhi feel that metro is the safest mode of transportation for women. There is constant surveillance both inside the metro and outside the stations, which keeps antisocial elements in check. DTC bus network, however, is a completely different story. "Metro is still safer. The presence of police around the stations makes me feel safe. But the buses are where the incidents of groping and inappropriate leering happens every day," says Satakshi, a 19-year-old student.
Some beg to disagree
Elizabeth, who has returned to Delhi after 10 years, feels that the situation has improved for the better. "I feel so much safer now. I can walk around by myself even at 11 pm, take the metro and get back home safely. Compared to other countries, we have a long way to go, but I am glad that the change is finally setting in."
It is evident that the road to creating a Delhi where women can freely move with dignity is long and challenging one. Even while doing our research we were catcalled multiple times, and there really wasn't a single police officer in sight. According to a Times of India report, even after two years of identification of 7428 dangerous dark spots in Delhi, the government has only been able to light up 5472 spots. The problem doesn't lie in formulating schemes but in implementing them. Social engineering is the need of the hour; there is a need to actively educate people about women and their rights.
Women's liberty is not a debatable ask, it's a given right that they are being denied in a surprisingly archaic society. Even though the statistics suggest that crimes against women have come down, the current numbers are still staggeringly high. It is the mindset that needs to change, the misogyny that needs to be eliminated, and chauvinism that needs to be condemned.