Delhi Police commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi, in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times a couple of days ago, had described the December 16 gang rape as a “watershed moment” in the way crimes against women were reported, investigated and acted upon.
He listed various measures — taken after the incident that shook the collective conscience of the country — to make Delhi a safer city for women, including prompt registration of FIRs in such cases.
Though women across the city, who participated in the HT-C fore survey, welcomed the registration of more cases, the police need to do a lot more to build confidence among the fairer sex.
In 2012, the year Delhi Braveheart was gang-raped, 15 crimes against women were reported each day in Delhi. In 2014, the number stood at 42 — which means that every hour at least two women were either raped, molested, harassed, abducted or faced domestic violence.
A staggering 16,000 calls involving women falling victims to one crime or another were made to the police control room (100) and women helpline (1091) this year so far. And, a survey by Hindustan Times and Cfore has revealed that only 6% women approach the police after being harassed.
Responses to another structured question said most women shy away from visiting the police because 35% of them believe the cops would only record the crime and do nothing. Also, confirming the stereotype, 22% respondents said they were scared the police would trivialise the matter while 18% had no confidence in the police at all.
The rising crime figures and the reluctance among women in approaching the police shows not only a huge trust deficit but also a complete failure of the preventive measures taken to pre-empt crimes against women. Most of the initiatives recommended by judicial panels, the Supreme Court and others have not been implemented or done without proper planning. Except for setting up helplines, other measures did not see the light of the day.
Shubra Mendiratta, in-charge of Rape Crisis Intervention Centre in north Delhi, agrees that women don’t trust police because the mindset of cops has not changed. “Police don’t take immediate action on complaints by women. They give silly excuses, dilly-dally so that the complainant gives up on filing a formal complaint. After the December 16 gang rape, the behaviour of cops may have improved a bit but their modus operandi has not changed much,” said Mendiratta, who often counsels women victims.
One of the classic examples of police’s indifference came to light recently when several police teams were probing the Uber cabbie rape case. The same day, a family of a six-year-old rape survivor was running from pillar to post to get their FIR registered at the Aman Vihar police station. It took 12 hours for the police to register an FIR in the case. In fact, the police, in an utter show of insensitiveness, assigned the job of reporting the presence of the accused in the locality to the girl’s father.
No wonder, people think twice before reporting sexual crimes.
One of the many measures the Delhi Police claim to have taken to remove the trust deficit is deployment of women officers at all police stations and handing over probes into rape cases to women officers only. However, the rate of implementation leaves much to be desired. There is only one women police officer for 1,600 women in the city. Moreover, of the 181 police stations only one has a woman station house officer.
Also, due to lack of training, the women officers and their small number they find it difficult to handle a large number of cases that are assigned to them. The solution clearly lies in not only recruiting more women officers but also ensuring that they are trained for the specific job that they are supposed to handle.
Another aspect that the recent Uber cabbie rape case exposed is the crass negligence by both the police and the transport department. The accused, who had a long criminal record and had molested and assaulted a number of women, was able to get a permit to drive a cab in the Capital. Neither the police nor the transport department ensured that even if the accused cabbie had forged documents, they should have verified them.
During the detailed coverage of the shocking incident, HT, through a detailed graphic, showed how lapses by several departments including the police, ensured that the cabbie had a free run and was able to commit the crime — which otherwise could have been averted.
Respondents to the survey also squarely blamed the police and transport department for the incident.
Despite claims by Delhi Police that the force is getting lessons in gender sensitisation, the attitude with which crimes against women are approached ensures that not only the victims feel afraid of seeking police help, their families too try to hush up the matter. Notwithstanding the fact that post-December 16 gang rape, more complaints of crimes against women are being turned into FIRs, the police’s indifference potentially negates all the good that the force does.
The police, so far, has also failed to urge other departments to work with the force to ensure a safer city for women. Dark stretches, which still remains a major concern among women who move out daily, can be made well-lit, if the beat constable or the police station concerned impresses upon the civic officials to repair/install streetlights. Lighting may not be the responsibility of the police, but when a criminal takes advantage of the dark and harasses a woman, it ultimately becomes their job to handle it.The solution lies in not only building capacity but to ensure strict implementation of preventive measures which would make the job of the police force easier and city a safer place for the women to live in.