Odisha: Smart city Bhubaneswar's cops are not equipped to protect women

Before the unrest over the Bengaluru molestation incident settled, another ghastly crime against women shook Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. On 6 January, eve-teasers thrashed three college girls when they protested their lewd comments on one of the not-so-busy thoroughfares in the city. And that was despite the fact that the road led to a tourist destination — the Nandankanan zoo, which is frequented by thousands of visitors every day. Situated in the city precinct under the urban policing district (UPD), the incident occurred equidistant from two police stations in the area – Infocity Police Station and Nandankanan Police Station — and without any help coming from either of them. Both the stations are equipped with PCR vans and manned by personnel. To cover a distance of two kilometres, the PCR van took 40 minutes and by then the girls and the boy had been abused, beaten up and their mobile phones damaged.

The men in uniform inflicted more misery on the victims by questioning them and the boy accompanying them for being out, much before apprehending the accused and filing a complaint. All this happened in broad daylight and 15 to 20 passersby — as videographed by one of them — were mute spectators.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

This mishap, which is one of the many such incidents happening in the city, raised serious questions over the claims of the Commissionerate Police (CP) on the safety of women in the state's capital. An education hub in eastern India, Bhubaneshwar houses the maximum number of reputed educational institutes and has seen a meteoric rise in student population. It is natural for the students to move out of their campuses on work or otherwise and it becomes the onus of state to provide them safety, at least within the city limits.

In August 2016, an NIFT Bhubaneswar student was reportedly molested outside her hostel with the security guards posted just 200 metres away. In protest, students staged road blockade but the police refuted any reports of such an incident. Similarly, a few months ago, another lady employee was abducted and molested inside a moving van while she was on her way back home from office late in the night, at a place which is a few metres away from Khandagiri police station.

Here is what the crime statistic report of the city states: Around 77 cases of rape were reported in Bhubaneswar UPD as against 87 cases in 2015, 71 in 2014, 52 in 2013 and 56 cases in 2012. In toto, a total of 144 cases of rape were reported from the city in comparison to 127 in 2015 and 138 in 2015. Though molestation and eve-teasing cases are recurring, the statistics show only 13 eve-teasing cases being registered in 2016 in contrast to 22 cases in 2015, which could also be indicative of the fact that many cases go unreported. However, the 2016 report does not have any mention about molestation cases in isolation. Ironically, the statistics has a lot of discrepancies in its comparative yearly analysis presented now.

There are some girls who retaliate and are successful but most turn into victims. And there are examples like that of Chinmayee Bhuyan who was inducted into the force as a special police officer for her bravery in dealing with snatchers and molesters (September 2016). Two days ago a girl in Cuttack also bashed up an eve-teaser and handed him over to the police.

However, the video footage of some of the recent incidents forces us to ponder if or not the security of women is a priority. First, the PCR vans have no fuel in times of emergency and invariably reach the spot late. Secondly, the passersby remain passive. Third, the police personnel use objectionable language at the crime spot in presence of women and question them baselessly instead of giving solace to them which indicates their insensitivity.

Every little act of outraging the modesty of women is a crime and every rape begins with eve-teasing and molestation. If rapes are to be stopped, eve-teasing and molestation too must. The police that functions under the home department is directly under the supervision of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is known for his polished behaviour and etiquette. The chief minister must ensure his force learns some of these and is made accountable and answerable. Bhubaneswar is bracing up to be one of the smartest cities in the country and security and safety should take priority. Else, Bhuwaneshwar will become a city where hooligans run riot and law keepers prefer to plod, and the women prefer to stay indoors.

Published Date: Jan 13, 2017 14:37 PM | Updated Date: Jan 13, 2017 14:43 PM

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