Curbing crimes a challenge to ensure security for women in Gurugram
It has the malls, pubs, and restaurants, but the high incidence of crimes against women in Gurugram remains a cause for serious concern.
“I often have to walk on MG Road to reach the Metro station, and to be honest, it is very scary. Every other day, there are drunken brawls taking place, and many illegal activities are evidently taking place in the open,” Mannat Sharma, a resident of Sector 17, said.
The rate of crimes against women has been rising in Gurugram and the majority of them are sexual, affecting both working women as well as those who come to enjoy the city’s nightlife. Since the 1990s, when the first influx of multinational companies to Gurugram took place, the city has seen a drastic shift from rural to urban.
Anoop Kumar, a research scholar from Jawahar Lal Nehru University who is working on urban spaces, explained the city’s high rate of crimes against women as a fallout of the area’s rapid change from rural to urban. “Gurugram is at a wrong socio-cultural conjunction as urban rich, local villagers and professionals are neither living in sync nor are they on the same page,” said Kumar.
One of the most notorious stretches in Gurugram is MG Road stretch, famously called the Mall Mile. It has a number of malls and approximately 50 pubs and bars. The area is well-known for incidents of violence, drunken brawls, sexual harassment, rape, and abduction.
Women complain of limited police presence and shoddy infrastructure, such as a lack of streetlights on the stretch.
Police statistics show these fears are not unfounded. The majority of the reported crimes against women in the city are sexual. In 2017, 137 cases of rape were reported in Gurugram and 39 cases of rape have been reported in just the first three months of this year. Ninety cases of sexual harassment have also been reported between January and April of 2018.
Gurugram Police said it has sanctioned four new women Police Control Room (PCR) vans and increased patrolling during the night to make women feel safer in the city.
Since 2016, the police has held regular Town Hall meetings in industrial areas to make sure women know about their rights and the processes that are in place in case of an emergency.
Commissioner of police, Gurugram, Sandeep Khirwar said that the police have been dealing with crimes against women on a priority basis.
There is a helpline that women can call and it receives nearly 250 calls daily. In case of an emergency, a PCR van rushes to the spot within 10 minutes.After the December 16 gangrape in New Delhi, Gurugram Police also set up a special Rapid Action Force (RAF) of 52 women officers who were charged with responding to incidents of harassment, misconduct and other crimes against women.
“Several steps have been taken to make the women feel safe in the city —be it setting up of women police stations, Romeo free drives, training women [in self defence], strengthening of 1091 helpline, along with increasing sensitisation of police personnel,” Khirwar said.
Despite these efforts, most women still feel unsafe while travelling in the city alone, particularly in the evening and at night.
“I have to travel from Delhi every day to Cyber City and often get late while returning from office. It sends chills down my spine when it gets dark and I have to travel alone, even to the Metro station,” said Nikita Thakar, who works as an executive at a multinational corporation.
At present, there are 332 women cops posted against 403 vacancies in the city, which means there are still 171 women police officers needed. Policewomen said their work takes them to the opposite ends of society, from slums to condominiums. Many said they faced challenges such as language barriers and diverse cultural backgrounds while policing.
Inspector Poonam Hooda of Gurugram Police, who often works on night shifts, said functioning streetlights, more policewomen and more PCR vans need to be top priorities. Hooda would also like local authorities to take the issue of public transport seriously.
“I strongly want authorities to work towards improving the local transport across the city so the women can use it instead of private cabs or unruly autorickshaws,” she said.
“They would feel safer while travelling in a public transport,” she added.
Regular commuters, such as Sukreeti Dagar, a 26-year-old resident of the city, agree. “Metro seems to be the only option, but it does not have last-mile connectivity,” Dagar pointed out. “We are either left with the option of taking cabs or autos, both of which are extremely expensive and also not very safe.”