Reva Sanghvi (79) and her daughter-in-law Bhavna (54) were murdered in the bustling suburb of Malad in a residential-cum-commercial complex.
The case, the fourth such this year, has brought back into focus the vulnerability of senior citizens and women alone at home in the city.
“It (a crime like this) is a combination of various factors,” said professor Kamala Ganesh, head of the department of sociology, University of Mumbai. “Women do not take adequate precaution (when they are living alone); senior citizens are not yet mentally equipped to live alone. Plus there is that loss of community living.”
The concept of ‘community living’— middle-class families lived in chawls or close-knit housing complexes where everybody knew each other — is something old Mumbai saw a lot of. But in nuclear families, with both spouses working to meet rising aspirations, there is little time for neighbours.
Senior citizens living alone find it difficult to reach out in such an environment. The loneliness makes them susceptible to such attacks. “Seniors just need people to talk to and tend to trust easily,” said Neha Shah, manager, social support services, Dignity Foundation. “And some people take advantage of their situation.”
Ganesh also finds the desperation and daredevilry of attacks alarming.
“There is a general propensity towards violence in an urban pressure cooker environment,” said Ganesh. “In this age of globalisation and the current socio-economic scenario, people are willing to resort to crime for small returns.”
Police have observed that attackers are faces familiar to their victims: a domestic help, a newly employed watchman, an accomplice of a milkman or dhobi.
This is why the city police launched an initiative under which residents were asked to register their domestic service providers with the local police station.