Women are unsafe in City Beautiful. Danger lurks in public spaces and local transport. Security gaps have only widened. The shocking gang rape at knife point of a 21-year-old call centre employee in the Sector-29 forest area late on Monday evening echoes the bone-chilling December 16 Delhi gang rape four years back. The Nirbhaya case, as it came to be known, shook the collective conscience of the nation regarding crime against women.
So much for better policing through CCTV cameras. Police failed to identify the accused, two men including an auto-rickshaw driver, due to defunct cameras. Sources said police failed to procure footage from CCTV cameras including those at the Tribune Chowk, one of the main traffic points in the city. Safety lessons have eluded Chandigarh police and the local administration repeatedly. Even public transport is unsafe in the city. This does not only reflect a negligent attitude towards women’s safety but a laid back attitude towards residents’ safety.
TRAFFIC SP BLAMES UT ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT
“We faced problems procuring footage from CCTV cameras installed along the route which the auto driver took on Monday. Some were found defunct. A camera installed by traffic police at an important point at the Tribune Chowk was found defunct,” said a senior police officer.
Superintendent of police (traffic) Eish Singhal blamed the UT engineering department for the delay in executing the proposal of installing new cameras in the city. “There are 100 cameras installed by traffic police at important city points. Most of them were installed between 2008 and 2009 and few are lying defunct,” he said.
Singhal added, “A proposal for installing new cameras was sent to the UT engineering department a long time back but they’ve done nothing about it.”
Chandigarh is being ‘looked after’ by 13,000 cameras. Moreover, the administration claimed to have put the whole city under CCTV surveillance under the ‘smart city project’ which has not happened yet .
Superintendent of police (city) Navdeep Singh Brar said, “Over 10,000 cameras were installed at sensitive points under project Nigehban with the help of city residents. These cameras have proven helpful in solving cases. Only recently, we solved a murder in broad daylight of an 18-year-old boy at Bhaskar Colony in Sector 25. The crime was captured by CCTV cameras installed close to the spot.”
ZEROING IN ON ‘GREEN’ AUTO
Police is trying to identify the three-wheeler used in the crime from among all the ‘green’ auto-rickshaws that ply in the city. Tough call? “We have crucial details about the colour and make of the auto-rickshaw used in the crime. There are around 6,000 CNG and LPG autos that ply in the city. Every auto does not have a Chandigarh number. We have gathered information about all such three-wheelers in the city,” said Brar.
Police have also recovered CCTV footage from CNG and LPG pumps in the city to identify the accused. Cops are going through the dump data of phone calls made in the vicinity around the time when the crime was committed. Police also released a sketch of one of the two accused and announced a `50,000 reward for any information on the accused. A senior police officer said over a 100 auto-rickshaws have been rounded up in the case so far.
POLICE INFORMED IN THE MORNING
The victim, in her statement, said after finishing work, she hired an auto-rickshaw from the road dividing Sector 34-21 for Hallomajra on Monday. She stated that there was one more person sitting in the vehicle other than the driver.
She stated that despite her protests, the auto-rickshaw driver took her to the Sector-29 slip road. She was dragged to the forest area where the two men raped her. While the auto driver fled, the other man accompanied her to a bus stop nearby and threatened her to not reveal the incident.
The victim was deeply shocked by the incident and was unable to inform police immediately. She narrated the incident to her mother, following which the police control room was informed at 7am the next day.
The incident has left parents worried in the city. The situation is no different for police. A head constable of Chandigarh police said, “My daughter takes tuition classes and commutes by auto-rickshaws. I have no courage left to allow her to commute by public transport.”
Sources in the department said police have detained a man and are probing his role as the accused. But senior police officers including city SP Navdeep Singh Brar denied any such development.