In the face of growing public ire over crimes against women, the Maharashtra government has announced a slew of measures aimed at checking them. These include reducing the number of policemen on VIP security, recruiting more policewomen, and increasing awareness about safety for women.
The recent killing of a Bandra college student by her former boyfriend, the rape of a 23-year-old on a bus in New Delhi, which has sparked nationwide protests, and reports of rape and molestation from across the country have put the authorities under pressure to show results. Hindustan Times has been consistently campaigning for the safety of women; in December last year HT had, in collaboration with the NGO Akshara, conducted a survey that showed most women in Mumbai felt unsafe in public spaces.
On Wednesday, home minister RR Patil said his priority was to tackle three major obstacles he had identified in tackling crimes against women: a shortage of around 20,000 policewomen, 31 vacant posts of judges in the 100 fast-track courts, and overburdened forensic laboratories, whose reports are crucial evidence in rape cases.
"We need to first fill in posts of policewomen, judges and improve the situation of our forensic labs since most women related cases depend on them," said Patil while talking to HT.
Patil said he had also decided to slash by a third down the number of policemen deployed for VIP security. This would free up nearly 500 personnel for law and order duties.
Currently there are 24,000 women police in Maharashtra, of whom 17,500 have been recruited in the past five years. Patil is planning to recruit 20,000 more women. The state is also planning to start cells run by policewomen at each police station.
Of the 100 fast track courts sanctioned, the government will ask Bombay HC to set aside 25 to tackle women's issues. "This will need to be cleared by the legislature," Patil said.
Meanwhile, in a bid to increase public awareness on issues related to women's rights, the women and child welfare department has proposed a 10-day campaign from January 3. Minister Varsha Gaikwad also wants special women's cells in colleges to help students who face harassment.