The Delhi government has taken multiple steps from installing CCTV cameras across the city, free bus rides for women, recruiting bus marshals in buses etc. to ensure safety for women increasing their mobility in public spaces, said Kailash Gehlot, Minister of Transport and Environment. He addressed a group of gender rights activists and commentators at the Safety for She: Bringing Equitable Urban Spaces organised by Centre of Social Research, Safetipin and The Asia Foundation with support from Korea International Cooperation Agency.
“Once we have CCTV cameras in the entire city, Delhi will be the city with largest number of CCTV cameras in the whole world. So, when we talk about women’s security, there isn’t a better step taken to ensure it. When we started to discuss about installing CCTV cameras at such a large scale, we suffered many challenges including a mindset wherein people said that this wasn’t possible in such a big city which has such a large population and there are few areas which are thickly populated. But we persisted and decided to have CCTV cameras in all our buses. In fact the buses now have CCTV camera with a panic button too. So, in case there is any kind of incident and women feel uncomfortable, the moment a woman presses the panic button, the message immediately goes to the transport command centre and the police headquarters. These are some of the ways that Delhi Government has taken to make buses secure,” says Gehlot adding that at the same time there are deterrent where offenders fear surveillance.
“It was a task for us to recruit and train 13,000 bus marshals. We had to coordinate with different agencies including Delhi homeguards, civil defence volunteers But within a very short span, we were able to implement the entire plan.”
However, he refrained from responding to a question asked about the absolute privacy encroachment so many CCTV cameras would entail in public spaces.
He also addressed the positive and negative dialogues going around the controversial free bus rides for women scheme. “There are many debates surrounding this scheme where women’s rights delegation have told us that that this is a wonderful initiative and some talking about it otherwise as well. But I say, through this initiative we are rebating mobility of lakhs of passengers every day,” he said. “It would have been even great if we could do it with metros as well but we couldn’t make that happen. While I believe that we have initiated this tremendous step but at the same time if some strata of women want to buy tickets, we welcome them to buy tickets.”
Gehlot also shared some insights on how the bus marshals were inducted in the Delhi buses. It was instituted so women travelling in buses feel secure that at least there is somebody who will hear her when she’s in distress, he asserted.
“Once we have CCTV cameras in the entire city, Delhi will be the city with largest number of CCTV cameras in the whole world.”
“It was a task for us to recruit and train 13,000 bus marshals. We had to coordinate with different agencies including Delhi homeguards, civil defence volunteers But within a very short span, we were able to implement the entire plan. When we talk about women in urban spaces including buses, the bus marshals have done an excellent job of reducing incidents of eve-teasing, pickpocketing etc,” he said.
Women’s security and safety issues is a great topic of deliberation and contention in the national capital since the heinous Nirbhaya gang rape that happened in the city in 2012. While the Delhi police arrested the culprit within a span of 72 hours, the case is still waiting to reach conclusive conviction after seven years. These lags in the justice system makes society reluctant from believing whether the public spaces are now safe for women.