Increasing the strength of the police force, setting up one-stop centres and keeping the streets well lit are some of the solutions suggested by HT’s panel of experts for improving women’s safety in Noida and Ghaziabad.
The panel comprised Prakash Singh, former director general of police (Uttar Pradesh police and Border Security Force); BK Gupta, former Delhi police commissioner and Kalpana Vishwanath, co-founder of SafetiPin. SafetiPin is an organisation that works to make cities safer for women.
Discussing the issue of women’s safety, Gupta said in Delhi, sodium bulbs have been replaced by LED lights in almost all streetlights as they are brighter.
“Sodium lights and incandescent tubelights fail to serve the purpose as they do not fully brighten up the area. Dark alleys are the places where women mostly feel unsafe and vulnerable. Streetlight cover in Noida and Ghaziabad should be increased and the existing bulbs must be replaced with LED lights as soon as possible,” said Gupta.
The idea was echoed by Vishwanath, who said that streetlights are most important in making a woman feel safe on the streets.
“Streetlights are an important factor in determining whether an area is termed safe or not. And this is the reason why it is one of the nine parameters in a safety audit conducted by SafetiPin. In the audit, we have found that most places in Noida have scored zero on the streetlight factor,” said Vishwanath.
Talking about the infrastructural requirements for making cities safer for women, Gupta emphasised on CCTV camera surveillance, not only in public places but also in public transport vehicles.
“CCTV camera network is must to prevent crime against women as a criminal will know that he is being watched. For instance, the kidnapping of a woman in Gurgaon on Monday came to light as it was caught on CCTV camera. She was saved because of this. Moreover, CCTV cameras should be installed in public transport vehicles also as appointing a marshal in each vehicle is not feasible,” he said.
Prakash Singh talked about having more women police personnel. According to him, the ideal representation of women in a police force should be one-third of the total strength, but it is less than 10% in Noida and Ghaziabad.
“Increasing representation of women in the police force is necessary as it will help restore faith of women in the police and they will not be afraid of lodging complaints,” said Singh.
He said there is a need to recognise the reason behind the rise in crime against women.
“There is erosion in the value system, which needs to be tackled at the family and institutional level. Moral values and ethics have disappeared and there is a need to restore them,” he said.
Gupta said like Delhi, the Uttar Pradesh police should also have a post of commissioner as this will make police officers more proactive.
“The UP police lag behind the Delhi police in sensitiveness towards issues regarding crime against women. During my tenure, I had started a policy under which if a woman was stuck somewhere in the city late at night and was unable to find any safe mode of transport, she could call a PCR van which would drop her home safely. This kind of a facility can be started here as well,” said Gupta.
Singh said one-stop centres for women should be set up in Noida and Ghaziabad.
“The policy for one-stop centre was introduced after the December 16 gangrape incident in 2012, but the progress has been extremely slow. Noida and Ghaziabad are in a dire need of such centres as the rate of crime against women is high here. Such a good idea should be followed up on,” he said.
Looking at the way forward for the issue, all three experts agreed that a lot has changed since December 16, 2012 in Delhi, but there is still a long way to go before the cities are safe for women.
“Awareness regarding crimes has increased and cases of crime against woman are taken with utmost importance. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done with regard to infrastructure and how our cities are designed,” said Vishwanath.
Gupta said that earlier police officials used to dissuade a woman from lodging an FIR. But now, since the laws have become stringent, all crimes are registered.
“The Supreme Court has passed an order that if a police officer refuses to lodge an First Information Report (FIR) for a crime against a woman, a criminal case can be registered against him. Moreover, laws have been passed which categorise stalking as an offence which is an improvement,” said Gupta.