Third in the Series: 19th January 2018

Police: Security, Crime & Womens Safety.

IIC’s two Seminar halls were chockfull - IIC members, Ambassadors, Trustees of Tata Trusts and the Bahai Lotus Temple, writers, publisherbs, college students and office goers fell into two distinct age groups. Aptly referred to as Gen X and Gen Y- they were keen to hear .

The Director of IIC Air Marshal Naresh Verma introduced the new IIC Series Delhi Matters and the third event in the series. The discussion was chaired by Dr Meenakshi Gopinath , currently Founder and Director of WISCOMP (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace) and distinguished Principal Emerita of Lady Shri Ram College .The discussants were Mr Sanjay Beniwal, IPS , the Special Commissioner of Police, Women Safety, Airport and Modernisation in Delhi Police; Dr Kalpana Viswanath the co-founder and CEO of Safetipin , the architect of a unique mobile data platform which helps citizens audit the safety of Delhi and other Indian cities and Professor Krishna Menon , Dean at the School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi,a research scholar on womenbs empowerment and a staunch feminist.

Dr Gopinath started with evocative glimpses of Delhi through the ages-picturesque and fascinating on the one hand but ravaged by centuries of turbulence and violence on the other- a microcosm of Indiabs diversity- enthralling but often disturbing.Picking up a random newspaper she read headline after headline b stories after stories of rape, abduction, molestation, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual harassment b indeed this was the stuff that greeted Delhiites each morning.

“What kind of impact would this have on the collective psyche of the cityb she asked,b does this somehow get into the DNA of the city?b Inviting Special Commissioner Sanjay Beniwal to respond she asked bWhat then are your challenges in giving Delhibs citizens safety and security?”

Dr Meenakshi Gopinath, Director of WISCOMP and distinguished Principal Emerita of Lady Shri Ram College

Beniwal explained the complexities of policing the capital in a simple, conversational way as he described multifarious responsibilities that the police force confronted each day. Describing it as bthe only city in the world which annually manages more than 9000 processions of over 5000 people,b he lamented the fact that such situations often jeopardised movement in the entire city. VIP security too irked the public but it was not a police made phenomenon but a requirement of the prescribed Blue book which laid down the scale of VIP security which the police were duty bound to provide

The security pickets had helped check untoward events much as these were resented; the administration of the city under 181 police stations, patrolled by 10 beats per police station where over 7000 officers and men were deployed had strengthened police presence and increased accountability. Police stations too had been enhanced in different ways to provide a hassle-free experience. Real time satellite mapping was being used to zone in on crime spots within 4 minutes of the occurrence of a crime being reported. Technology had contributed greatly to making Delhi a safer city.This had resulted in crime statistics having declined substantially accompanied by higher conviction rates. However he admitted that a decline in reporting crime was a source of worry.

He also highlighted how in bmigration had accounted for huge population growth which in turn was responsible for new social dynamics that sometimes fomented a climate conducive to crime. This was because migrant workers had little choice between wage earning and caring about family safety and were unprepared for the designs of unknown people who often took advantage of their vulnerability. He lamented the absence of organised crC(ches and said that that was one step which was badly needed. “If you think Delhi mattersb he said bask your public representative to set up crC(ches so children can be safe.“

Anticipating questions about public- police confrontation he said there was zero tolerance for aberrant behaviour. Over 2000 disciplinary cases, suspensions, even dismissals without pensionary benefits had taken place.

Mr Sanjay Beniwal, IPS, the Special Commissioner of Police, Women Safety, Airport and Modernisation in Delhi Police

Dr Kalpana Vishwanath contested some of this by saying that fear remained a defining characteristic of womenbsb experience of the city. It is not only the actual experience of violence that worried women, but the constant looking over onebs shoulder and stepping off the pavement on seeing a group of men that was aggravating. Staying out after dark caused fear because womenbs lives and mobility were restricted and exceptions made them feel vulnerable in a society that distinguished and discriminated between men and women.

“Street life needed to be fostered and nurtured by having vibrant public spaces. India Gate and Connaught Placeb she said bdid not constitute public spaces where women could use comfortably. Unlike men who had a right to bloiter“ or just snooze around in parks and roundabouts, women canbt just bhang aroundb over a cup of tea on their own.

“Delhi streets too are not planned for walking-instead people were building higher and higher walls to be reached by cars. Safe and inclusive public spaces are important if women are to feel safe and free to move around. Arenbt women equal citizens of this city? Except for shopping centres why has Delhi been allowed to acquire such a male dominated presence? To make Delhi a better place to live in, women must feel safe and free.”

Dr Kalpana Viswanath the co-founder and CEO of Safetipin

Dr Krishna Menon on Delhi and Women’s Security

“When we speak of safety we do not want to exclude the safety concerns of any sections of Delhibs citizens. Delhi would be a smart city, when it is able to address the concerns of safety and security of the weakest and most vulnerable citizens.b”

On Delhi and Women’s Security

“Exceptionalising the experience of violence in Delhi creates a debilitating fear among its citizens, especially women. It also justifies surveillance and regulation of women's mobility and freedom. Hence it is important that the question of security in Delhi should be placed in a larger global context where violence is increasingly acceptable as a legitimate means of resolving conflicts.”

On use of technology

“Women should have the agency over the technology being used to secure their security or else technology could be used to regulate their freedom.”

Professor Krishna Menon, Dean, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi

The full audio tape of the event is available here.

(We thank Ms Preeti Bawa Lamba for sharing mobile videoclips which enabled capturing some fascinating conversations.)