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Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 06, 2013
The public outrage after the December 16 gang rape in Delhi forced the Union home ministry, which is in charge of law and order in the capital, to announce some quick measures. The two most important promises among them were: there would be an increase in the number of patrol cars and at least nine policewomen would be appointed in each police station. At present, about 6,750 of the 75,000-strong (9%) Delhi Police are women, which is less than the mandated presence of at least 10% policewomen in uniform.

However, the problem is not specific to Delhi alone; other cities also face a similar crunch. In Mumbai, there are only 3,343 policewomen in the 44,994-strong (less than 10%) police force. Ideally, 13,500 of the force (30%) should be women. The public pressure also forced the Delhi government to start a new helpline (181) for women.

While adding more boots on the ground and introducing helplines are important steps, these measures alone are not eno-ugh. Policemen who patrol city streets and the people who man helplines must be reminded that it is their duty to act quickly and decisively when the need arises. Recently, reports suggested that while such helplines in Ahmedabad are connected to shops, in Delhi, women callers were asked to call up 100 first and then, if they did not get any help, call up 181 again. Then, on Friday, in a TV interview, the friend of the Delhi gangrape victim alleged that after they were thrown out of the bus by the accused, three PCR vans reached the spot but none took them to a hospital or offered them a rug. Instead, the policemen kept arguing with each other about their jurisdictions. While the Delhi Police has refuted this charge, they - or for that matter police force in any other state - can't deny that such instances of delay have happened before.

Instead of just tinkering with the fixtures in the system and adding new ones, the authorities must ensure that the police force and helpline managers are constantly reminded that their indifference can be a question of life and death for the victim.