Everytime there is a gruesome tragedy, mostly man-made, which could have been prevented by good governance there is invariably a kneejerk reaction of the powers that be to enact more stringent laws for punishing the culprits, without the necessary focus on the means to prevent similar incidents in future.
No doubt, stringent measures are required to punish the culprits who commit such heinous crimes, but it is more important to prevent their commission. The old adage that prevention is better than cure appears to have been completely forgotten.
Crimes against women which are on the increase, remain fresh in public memory only for a few days, before fading away till the next heinous incident reminds the nation of the horrific situation.
Modernity requires the women to constitute a large working force which entails their movement even at odd hours, because of the demands of their profession. Safe environment for working women in particular and women in general, is the necessity of modern life to which even the minimum care is not bestowed.
A lame excuse usually forthcoming to cover the lapse of good governance is the inadequacy of the law enforcement machinery, particularly the police force. One has only to see the show of police force when any VVIP, whose number is constantly increasing, is likely to be travelling by road.
Not only the bare route of travel of such VVIP is shut, but even the area around it is cordoned off, stopping all traffic, including those whose movement is far more important — for example — sick patients, those in a hurry to catch their flights and trains, as also exam going students.
Such arrangements for any individual at the cost of general public is anathema to republican democracy, more so, when inadequacy of police force is stated as the justification for lack of policing to avert the heinous crimes, particularly those against women.
The question that needs to be posed to those in positions of power and responsibility is — how many police personnel are deployed on VIP and VVIP duties and if this number is reduced to instill a sense of security in the citizens, will the capital be a better place to live ?
It is shocking to hear the reaction of public authorities when they advise women to not move in odd hours and to abstain from dressing in a particular manner. Everytime there is a serious road accident, the media also reminds about the Supreme Court guidelines of 1997 which were issued in the wake of Wazirabad tragedy, when a school bus was involved in the tragic incident, but soon thereafter everybody forgets its import till the happening of yet another serious road accident.
Accountability of law enforcement agencies is the urgent need of the hour, since they consistently fail to perform their duty of preventing such heinous crimes. Punishment of the criminals has no doubt to be pursued with great vigour and speed.
Mere kneejerk reaction to such an incident which is soon forgotten without any improvement is mere rhetoric without action.
(The writer is a former Chief Justice of India and former chairperson of the NHRC)