Sanya Bhardwaj hesitantly steps down the stairs of the MG Road Metro station, her eyes firmly fixed on the ground and heart on a tip-toe. She hardly breathes till she reaches the parking lot, afraid of making any involuntary sound that might draw attention towards her in the dead of night.
To most 27-year-olds like Sanya living in Gurgaon, these unspoken self-preventive actions come instinctively. It’s the accumulated wisdom of years of travelling in public transport and negotiating the streets after sundown.
Beneath its sparkling malls, corporate persona, cosmopolitan culture and great show of opulence lies another Gurgaon; a city plagued by massive security challenges. Sample this: Last year saw more than 80 cases of murder, 50 rape cases and 50 abductions. Add to that the countless cases that go unreported and it becomes clear that Gurgaon is staring at a serious law-and-order breakdown.
No wonder, an HT-C fore survey revealed that an overwhelming 78% city residents do not feel safe venturing out at night.
“I mostly work in night shifts and commute in my car. I feel scared. There is always this fear of being attacked by a carjacker as there’s hardly any police presence at night,” said 25-year-old Diya Pathak, who works with a BPO on Golf Course Road.
Diya’s fears are not unfounded. The city reported 3,000 cases of vehicle thefts last year of which a mere 440 cases were resolved by the police. With increasing number of cars being added on the city roads — 60,000 per month — carjacking cases are seeing an upward trend. The figure was 2,700 in 2011.
It’s this dual nature of Gurgaon — full of promise on the one hand and a scary place at night — which unsettles many newcomers here. Take the case of 23-year-old Nita Das for instance. Bustling with energy and passion to make it big in life, she recently moved here from a small town to work with a software firm. However, her parents are already regretting sending her to Gurgaon. Reason: Within days of shifting, her PG accommodation was burgled. She lost precious belongings and had a harrowing time registering an FIR. The PG owner closed the facility after the incident, leaving her stranded and scared. The city reported as many as 529 cases of burglary last year. The figure was 478 in 2011, another indicator of growing lawlessness in the city.
Shveta Sharma, another BPO employee, shares a recent incident. “I went to a dry cleaner at 8 in the night. There was this group of five-six men there who kept ogling at me the whole time. Though I was feeling uncomfortable, I kept ignoring them. Suddenly, one of them started walking towards me. I ran with all my might and didn’t look back till I was at my doorstep,” she says.
Anjoo Singh, a resident of DLF Phase 2, says, “Being a working woman I don’t always get time to cook, so I walk to a restaurant near my house for dinner. I have been stalked, smiled, laughed and ogled at. All this has become a part, a dangerous one, of life.”
The survey also showed that most residents did not feel the policing in the city was adequate. Acknowledging the fact that the police department was suffering from a staff crunch, Gurgaon police commissioner Alok Mittal said that it would take another couple of months before a fresh batch of cops are hired for the city.
“Despite being a working woman, I feel really scared to venture out of my house at night. People ogle at me and pass lewd comments. This has much to do with the clash of cultures here. They think of women in a certain way and can’t come to terms with the idea of a modern woman,” says Shveta Sharma. This clash of culture Sharma hits at is indeed the heart of the problem of crime against women in the city, say experts.
Professor Vivek Kumar, an eminent sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says, “The law and order situation in Gurgaon is nothing new. It signifies the pre-existing and prevailing circumstances. The rural pockets in Gurgaon area or the nearby villages are just carrying on a culture that had always been there. While harassment incidents took place in agricultural fields earlier, now they have come to confront the posh localities too.” “They are treating women the same way they used to; only now the media and the new modern woman are in no mood to take things lying down,” he adds.