Top
Millennium Post

Miles to go

‘No...! I can’t even think of stepping out from home or office all alone, especially after dark. The roads, even if they are lit by street lights, haunt me and my family,’ said Sneha working at a call centre in Pitampura. She added, ‘Nothing has changed post-16 December gang rape.’

Despite efforts made by Delhi government after the national capital witnessed the rarest of the rare gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedic student in December last year, who succumbed to her injuries, the reality is that Delhi still doesn’t make you feel safe. A team of reporters from Millennium Post wandered around the streets of Delhi in the middle of the night and during its six-hour-long patrolling of key locations that witness frequent crimes stumbled upon difficult truths. The team found a slight change in policing but the lack still remains. The team almost travelled 200 kms on a late Friday night and visited places like Nehru Place, Lajpat Nagar, India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Connaught Place, New Delhi Railway Station, Ring-Road, Saket, Chhatarpur, Munirka, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, NH-8, Mahipalpur flyover, Pitmapura, Moti Nagar, Dhaula Kuan, Badarpur and Mayur Vihar. Constables manning barricades and PCR vans could be seen stationed at various points but the presence of Delhi police personnel in the most vulnerable spots was not substantial to give women confidence.

The team also spotted more than a dozen stretches that were either without street lights or were poorly lit. Absence of cops in such places is an open invitation to the criminals. The horrifying incident had made the government shiver as public anger and outcry had forced the judiciary to introduce fast-track courts. A new anti-rape law was put in place. Special helpline numbers (181, 1095) along with mobile phone applications were introduced.

A Rs 1,000 -crore fund was created in the name of ‘Nirbhaya’ and was announced by P Chidambaram, finance minister, for launching new schemes to ensure safety of women. After assessing the situation at ground zero, it can only be said that funds are being pickled and no proper scheme has been introduced for utilising them. The government claims that they have helped people with facilities such as better public transport that ply on Delhi roads ‘safely’ late at night. They claimed to have introduced 85 buses with home guards. However, no such guards were noticed on these buses. The bus services remained infrequent leaving the passengers dependent on the auto-rickshaws.

Commuters, especially the women, are still at the mercy of the unruly auto drivers in the national capital. The auto-rickshaws drivers often charge them an exorbitant fare. Despite a fare meter being installed, these auto drivers charge much more than the original fare. The city administration has failed to implement the auto fare policy.

Two female reporters of Millennium Post acted as potential customers at the various bus stands in south Delhi and central Delhi, New Delhi Railway station, Connaught place inner and outer circle to hire autos to east Delhi’s Shahdara. But each auto driver refused to ferry them. They were not ready to ply as per meter fare and they demanded extra money as late night charges. There is worse to come. The auto drivers take law into their hand as they can thrash and misbehave with the commuters without having any fear of law. Meanwhile, experts have advised women that they should avoid any argument with such auto drivers as their security come first. ‘People should not get involved in any argument with them. If, in case something happens, they should immediately inform the police,’ said Veena Gupta, an activist working for women’s issues.

Apart from the absence of adequate public transport facilities, followed by auto-issues in the dark hours, lack of 100 per cent lighting of roads is another major problem faced by the people who are travel in the night. ‘The dark areas spotted by the team are not monitored by the cops. There is a need to spot such places and then contact the concerned authorities, such as civic agencies and power distribution companies, to light those areas that might become a scene of crime in the future’, said Pooja, who often goes pillion-riding on a motor-cycle with her friend on the Lajpat Nagar flyover that was poorly lit.

It would be unfair on our part if do not praise Delhi police for their good work, as noticed by the team. Still, it is an uphill task. Though city police have managed to increase deployment and patrolling on city road, ensuring safety of women still remains an uphill task. Active policing was witnessed at several places, especially on the stretch that was taken by the white-coloured chartered bus in which, on 16 December 2012,  the girl along with her friend were hijacked, and six persons who are behind the bars, gang-raped her several times. The roads were seen barricaded with deployment of at least four policemen at the check-post. Each cop was keeping a close-eye on the movement of vehicles including the public transport. The suspected vehicles were thoroughly checked by the staff and the young people driving cars were forced to undergo liquor test to know whether he was driving under the influence of alcohol or not. However, at some places, the barricading has created traffic snarls even at night. But getting stuck in a traffic jam is preferable when it comes to the security of women. While roaming on the roads, not even a single tinted glass vehicles were spotted whereas, drunken driving could be easily noticed during the survey, may be because of the weekend.

‘I have been with Delhi police for last four years but the kind of change I have seen within the department is commendable. The 16 December incident has jolted every one of us and that’s the reason why perception towards Delhi police is changing. Since December last year I have seen three rescue operations where police stopped vehicles and managed to rescue those girls in distress at nights’, said 25-year-old constable Naveen Kumar, who was deployed on Mahipalpur road on Friday night.

Another cop added, ‘ There is a sea of change in perception towards girls. Now people come and complain to us whenever they see someone committing a wrong act. Earlier, most folks would remain mere spectators. Though, a lot has changed, there is still a long way to go to ensure safety on Delhi roads.’

Unruly auto drivers, absence of police from some of the crucial points in the dark and no control over prostitution have made the city unsafe for women. The bitter truth of Delhi during dark hours observed by the team had made us conclude, ‘ Don’t believe on the tall promises and commitments made by the concerned authorities. Your safety is still in your hands. Stay alert!’

AUTO MENACE

It is a common scene in Delhi where people can see these drivers force the commuters to sit into their auto. If he denies the auto drivers, they do not allow other auto driver to take them to their destination. The epicentres of such incidents are metro stations and the malls in the city, where auto drivers crowd the area and keep shouting at the top of their voice to get passengers.

The female commuters always complain that these auto drivers would generally block their way and compel them to board it. Instances of auto drivers trying to outsmart each other to woo commuters and in the process entering into fights among themselves are quite common, said a commuter. Out gates of city metro stations and railways stations are always a mess.

WHAT WE OBSERVED

Past midnight when the city awakes, the team found the absence of cops on the very first spot – Nehru Place. Even though the area remained lit, at 9.45 PM no policemen was deployed. Neither barricades nor PCR vans were seen. While visiting Connaught place, places like Lajpat Nagar, Nizamuddin remained poorly lit. When the team reached the outer circle in Connaught place at 10.20 pm, auto drivers refused to ferry the reporters and charged them extra money. Not even a single cop was deployed near Plaza cinema area, after the night set in.

Reaching New Delhi Railway station and acting as potential customers, the same problems were witnessed. Further the journey to cover the same spots where the victims of 16 December gangrape visited, was made by the team. The places includes – Saket DLF Mall where they watched movies, Munirka bus stop, to where the auto-driver dropped them and they hired the tainted bus ferrying the rapists. The last destination of that particular stretch was Mahipalpur Flyover where the duo were dumped after the crime.

At 11:45 pm outside Saket mall, policemen were deployed  with PCR vans but right under their nose prostitutes were free to lure their customers. No action was taken against them. The team then visited Munirka bus stand at 12.05 am and found it isolated with no facility of public transport. Active policing could be seen in Vasant Kunj area where cops were checking of vehicles. Despite the police presence in the area, some hooligans at Vasant Kunj (South) area at around 12.30 am dared to overrun the barricade and cops failed to block their way. Even at midnight, the area near Mahipalpur remained jam packed and traffic cops were seen.  Further, upon visiting other places, we saw a lack of lighting on the streets and less patrolling. Even the border areas were left unattended.
Next Story
Share it