If we had to justify why security is a growing concern, we would probably have to re-route this conversation to an illustrious hierarchy of needs and delineate why being safe is kind of a big deal. Safety is a pressing issue that encompasses the public as an entity, yet it is deeply personal too.
“I still have to think twice before wearing something, travelling at a certain time, or relying on the civic behavior of the people around me.”
We doubt there’s anyone we know who cannot relate to the above. Some may have become numb to the actual wanting of such a basic freedom, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should stop pushing to catalyze that basic demand in our women again. Establishing civic behavior has always been a persisting conflict, for most of the individuals that participate in activities like ogling at strangers or catcalling consider it to be a crimeless activity. In fact, the lewd act has been reduced to a petty offense, less irritating than a mosquito bite, and certainly more common, with its ridiculous connotation as ‘eve-teasing.’ Here’s about a 100 reasons why that needs to change.
And though you might think this is getting too lady-centric, wake up. It was only a few years ago that Keenan Santoas and Reuben were killed for daring to stand up for their girlfriend’s integrity, who was being subjected to cheap comments and rude remarks. Ditto for the 19-year-old dombivili resident who was stabbed for questioning 5 teenagers about passing lewd remarks towards a girl in his building complex. Living in this kind of fear is unacceptable and it’s time we started working towards building an ecosystem in which all of us feel safe, regardless of where we are or what time of the night it is.
“But I’ve always felt pretty safe here. At least it’s better than living in Delhi!”
This isn’t a game of ‘who’s less likely to be assaulted’ either. How about we aim for a city where the likelihood of danger is nullified altogether, not simply better off in comparison to others? And although there has always been a conflicting argument vouching for the safety of the people in Mumbai according to statistics, we’re still the fourth safest in India alone. So it’s time to get off our not-so-high and decidedly unsafe horses.
We at Homegrown and Operation Black Dot became strongly determined to change this statistic during our discussions around The Youth Manifesto. It’s issues like security that control how protected individuals feel in their environment- and we’re hoping for a future that deals with lesser objectification and more awareness and empathy.
That being said, here are a few broad areas and solutions, amidst many more we received, that we’ve put together for the purpose of this article.
I. A SPECIAL ONE FOR YOU LADIES
A ladies special train is a train solely allotted for women, a real extension of the “ladies compartment” in normal trains
“I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen one, and I take the train to and from work every single day.”
If you haven’t heard about this phenomenon, it is probably because it is a veritable rarity- and finding one is like finding an empty Virar train at 5pm in the evening.
To curb issues like harassment and stalking of women in trains, a great way to commute would be to use Ladies Special trains. In order to provide women with an overall sense of security and well-being, there should be more options to travel by this type of train. To ensure this, there should be an increased frequency of the Ladies Special along with authorized personnel manning all the trains.
II. YOU GOTTA RESPECT.
Too often, we’re scared of the consequences of meddling in situations or reaching out because we don’t want to get bogged down by the way the system works.
“I see cops pulling up people for the most random things, but I don’t really say or do anything because it’s not going to help anyone. Or me.”
Lately, more and more people are complaining of being wrongly accused by a police officer, or in some cases, being downright disrespected. And the cases of mute spectatorship of gross offences is only on the rise, more due to the fear of how our so-called security forces will handle it rather than our own principles.“I was driving my girlfriend home at 11 pm and the cops at worli naka stopped us for absolutely no reason. They made such disgusting accusations about the kind of girl she must be to be out so late, alone with a man, that I’d much rather just avoid meeting her when it’s dark at all. How ridiculous is it that they feel they have the right to question us when we’re not breaking any law? This is a complete scare tactic, and all they wanted was money. Before you ask, yes I gave it to them. But only because I wanted to get my girlfriend out of that situation as fast as I could!” - Anurag Tiwari, 24.
The police officers, ironically, are the supposed guardians of our security, who unabashedly exploit situations to make a quick buck. How does this affect overall civic behavior?
Of course it’s going to make people apathetic. But only after they get angry and disillusioned first.
Now although apathy is a subjective trait, the attitude of the administration does get in the way of how we help each other. If the administration adopted an objective and understanding approach, it would culminate into a system that both respects, and is respected. This can be executed by implementing regular ‘socialization’ modules that police officers have to go through as part of their ‘sensitization’ training every 6-12 months. Even then we’re likely not to see massive progress though, unless our leaders themselves do not make a more aggressive case out of the ones who don’t.
III. CIVIC SEMINARS
Civic behavior is a conditioned conduct, instilled over time with the correct training and habituation. The general civic behavior in Mumbai is indistinct, there is no uniformity in the way people behave- which makes addressing it even tougher.
By holding workshops and seminars on civic obedience and behavior, you’re essentially involving all kinds of people in a dialogue that defines the constructs of civil conduct.
Not only will this raise awareness about safety, it will also keep people mindful about larger issues like public administration and social service.
Incidentally, the Mumbai Police has three branches under social service viz., the Anti Trafficking Cell, the Social Counseling Cell, Copy Right Violation and the Anti-Gambling Cell, all of which could be used to implement arms of the same.
Anti-Trafficking Cell - This branch initiates action under the PITA Act on organized prostitution rackets carried out in hotels, guesthouses and beauty parlors.
Social Counseling Cell - This branch deals with problems amongst the married couples by counseling them.
Copy Right Violation & Anti Gambling Cell - This branch also initiates action under the PITA Act on organized prostitution rackets carried out in hotels, guesthouses and beauty parlors.
All in all, it appears apparent that this is both one of the most grave and most directly solvable portions of the Youth Manifesto. One that is far too urgent to await the longevity of red tapes and delayed action. We deserve to feel safe in our own city, it’s a basic human right, and now is not the time to become complacent about it.
This is not the sound of self-satisfied teenagers living large without consequence. This is the sound of democratic participation, in the midst of a new awakening. We hope you feel inspired to join in the conversation too. Drop us a line with your thoughts in the comment section below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your suggestion is valid, we’ll be sure to include it in the final version of the manifesto too, and credit you for the same.
Stay tuned for our Homegrown X Operation Black Dot series of articles, which will be shedding light on Public Infrastructure tomorrow, as we move forth towards the upcoming State Elections this October the 15th.
Words: Shreya VaidyaFeature Image Credit: Ronny Sen (used with permission)