For many, they might be encroaching upon public space, but for a section of women in the city, vendors and hawkers make them feel safe in public places. At the same time, poorly lit stretches and parks, and narrow footpaths make women feel insecure and vulnerable.
All these concerns were raised by a number of women in a survey conducted by the Women and Child Development Department, which now wants to fix the infrastructural problems in order to make Delhi safer for women.
“Through the exercise conducted last year, issue of lack of proper streetlights on many city roads was raised by a majority of the women. Poorly lit areas give advantage to the bad elements to roam around freely and cause mischief. Many women said that vendors should be allowed on the roads as otherwise the entire stretch becomes deserted,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The Delhi Police had also conducted a survey last year in which 650 lanes were identified where streetlights were not functional.
During the internal survey, the college students also raised safety issues inside North campus of the Delhi University, which emerged as an important area. The department will now be devising ways to address the problems being faced by the students.
To begin with, a helpline will be launched where students will be able to raise issues related to eve-teasing, stalking, infrastructural problems in the campus and problems related to commuting within the campus.
“There might be certain pockets within the campus that students find unsafe or which are frequented by bad elements. Many students use the university library till late in the night, so the area has to be made secure for the women at all times. They can lodge such problems or concerns with the helpline and we will take it up with the police so that they are addressed at a faster pace,” said Raj Lakshmi, a DU lecturer who is working as a consultant for Awaz Uthao campaign of the Delhi government.
“Many a times, our lectures get over quite late and walking on the stretches alone becomes quite unsafe. For our safety,
we walk in groups of three or four,” said Ishita Verma, a DU student.
The department will now be writing to the authorities concerned to ensure future projects undertaken by them help in making public spaces safe for women. The department will be taking up the issues with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, the transport department, the Delhi Police and the urban planners too.
“We will be writing to them to ensure that these problems are rectified at the earliest. Also, for future projects, they should ensure that pavements are not very narrow and give enough space for women to walk properly without bumping into another person,” said a senior Delhi government official.
To ensure the information was collected properly for the survey, the Women and Child development department had formed a group of women collectives, who were given proper training so that they could ask relevant questions from RWAs and women.