Lawmakers, the law-enforcers, civil society and concerned citizens have been racking their brains over how to make India a safer place for women.
But the poor saps need not have gone through so much distress when the tourism ministry has demonstrated that it is on top of the situation. The National Tourism Advisory Council has decided that coolies and auto-drivers must sport badges which say ‘I respect women’ in Hindi and ten international languages.
This is aimed at inculcating a feeling of safety among women tourists. Forgive us for quibbling, but how will the authorities know which coolie or auto-driver the tourist will choose and in which language their badges will be in?
Okay, that is a minor point, officials may argue. Now imagine an auto-driver sporting the appropriate badge rattling along with a tourist in his vehicle. Will he suddenly be overcome with respect for the lady on account of his wearing the all-important badge?
If this badge of restraint were so effective, why stop with this? We could have badges handed out to khap panchayats saying, ‘we respect young people’s right to choose their own partner’. Or give badges to the congenital gropers in public transport and public places saying ‘we respect the autonomy of a woman’s body’.
Given our past record, it is highly unlikely that the woman tourist leaving an airport or railway or bus station is likely to have all her fears allayed upon seeing a gent sporting a message of respect. But we must admire the ‘vision’ of the tourism ministry.
Instead of deploying security officers armed with a cattle prod around places of embarkation and disembarkation, it has taken the easy and cheaper way out by thinking up this badge scheme.
Now we ask you, accustomed as you are to our matchless prose, would you consider wearing a badge saying, ‘I respect editorial writers?’ We take your silence to mean that this suggestion is not worthy of a response. Maybe the tourism ministry will take a hint from this.