Need Safety for women

Mumbarak Ansari & Prajakta Joshi
Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Pune police aim to have 1 lakh CCTV cameras and more night patrolling

Unlike some other cities in the country where the statistics do the talking relating to women’s safety on streets, the data of Pune city police does not reflect any sharp rise in crimes against women in the last few years. Yet, the harrowing incidents the women of the city face and hear every other day makes them feel vulnerable while travelling, especially at night, either alone or with some company.

While the percentage of women workforce is increasing in the city, at the same time, there is a large population of youngsters who like to stay out with friends, party and travel at night. While the young women have been active participants of Pune’s thriving nightlife, taking a ride around the city at night is not always a pleasant experience.

“When I came to Pune around four to five years ago, it was much safer than it is today. Now, it is difficult to take a bike ride alone at night without been followed or hooted at,” a student of Masters at Modern College, Swarali Joshi said.

Narrating one of her many distressing encounters, she added, “Just a few days ago, I was travelling on a two-wheeler late at night with another girl. We were being followed by a man in a car at a usually always crowded place like Karve Road. He was following us for quite some time and kept honking at us. We escaped without any untoward incident at that time, just like every other time, but these things keep on happening. While we usually see police checking vehicles at night, I have failed to see any police presence on road at times of distress.”

When asked on what could be done to make women feel safe on streets, she suggested, “I feel that we need more active and efficient policing in the city, adhering to the needs of changing time. The police helpline also must be active. There should be more awareness and ease of registering a police complaint as well.”

A couple of years ago, a few youngsters from the city ran a campaign, ‘Why Loiter Pune’, in a bid to reclaim public spaces for women at night. Rucha Satoor, speaking on behalf of the campaign said that security can be achieved only if we try to think beyond the concept of ‘safety’ alone.

“Safety is the basic minimum. Women also use public spaces at night for work, leisure, interactions, mobility and they are homes for quite a few women too. Public spaces at night turn into a masculine space. Well-lit, female populated spaces with clean and functional washrooms are needed as opposed to only CCTV surveillance, pepper sprays and curfews which inspire fear. Our conversations need to be informed by reclamation and not fear. Nothing inspires a woman to feel comfortable in a space like the presence of another woman,” Satoor said.

City-based SAP Consultant Neha Khandagale too said that a large number of females riding late at night makes one feel safe. 

“As a CA student, I always had to work late at the night for audits and year-enders. As interns, we would never get cabs or transport service. Hence, travelling on a moped was inevitable. However, fortunately unlike many, not once did I go through any wrongdoings on the road. Seeing many girls riding a two-wheeler late at night is quite supporting.”

As far as the issue of police presence and surveillance is concerned, Commissioner of Police Dr K Venkatesham said that the people’s perception of safety is not dependent on statistics, but on how police behave with them, and on the services offered to them.

“Our focus remains on prevention as well as detection of crimes. As part of the State government’s initiative, the police control room will be upgraded by August this year, and we hope to avoid instances of calls not getting connected. Also, more staff is being deployed on night patrol, besides some fixed points to provide an immediate response to people in distress,” the commissioner said.

He also added that with the help of traders, shopkeepers, educational institutions, housing societies, private companies, etc, the police are aiming to set up about one lakh CCTV cameras to expand the network of their surveillance system beyond only the major roads and chowks. 

“With the help of geotagging, our staff will get to know which are the cameras located near a crime spot to easily get footages. We will not get a live feed of these private cameras but we will ask for the footage if anything happens in the area. The CCTV cameras will act as a deterrence,” Venkatesham said.

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