Who says the government cannot move fast?
Just one day after a young woman got gang-raped in Gurgaon, the city bosses have come up with a slew of security guidelines. Women would have probably been banned from working in bars but the Supreme Court in 2007 overturned a Victorian rule that prevented them from doing just that. So Gurgaon has had to come up with new rules. They based it on a Shops and Commercial Establishments Act from Punjab. Why Gurgaon, which is in Haryana, is taking refuge in a law from Punjab, is another matter.
Gurgaon's security rules basically boil down to this – it's not their problem, it's yours.
Here's what women need to do. They cannot work after 8 pm. If they do, they need to tell the labour department in advance. If they work in a bar, they should not get "too friendly" with the drinkers. Of course, they should follow a dress code.
Here’s what companies need to do. They must maintain a logbook of vehicles used to transport women employees home, complete with vehicle registration numbers and the drivers' names. They need to install CCTVs at pick up points to make sure women are not "forcibly lifted". (Does that mean if she went willingly with someone who promised her a ride home, she deserved to be raped?)
Here's what pubs need to do. They have to maintain records of everyone who comes in, keep photocopies of identity cards and submit them to the authorities every two weeks. They must create an IP address and provide internet access to the cops so they have a 360-degree Big Brother view of every nook and corner of the premises.
Even the malls in which the pubs are located have a to-do list. They should turn off the electricity if the pub stays open after hours.
Finally, here’s what the police need to do. Nothing. Except now that there are lots of new rules to flout and bend, as well as a morass of bureaucracy, it creates an excellent money-making machine for your unfriendly neighbourhood cops. Instead of providing actual security out on the dark streets, the cops now get to spot check any of the 600 odd pubs in Gurgaon to see if they are keeping up with their paperwork. They can also sit in the police station and get their jollies from watching couples necking in a dark corner of some pub – a free peep show to liven up those boring evenings at the thana.
Every rape story follows the same sorry track. At first there is the character assassination of the victim, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant – what she did, or did not do, what she wore, why was she out that late, what’s her love life like (she called both her husband AND a boyfriend from her mobile, well, well.) The word "raped" appears in quotes in media headlines. Then the cops deny that it is a critical problem anyway and accuse the media of blowing it out of proportion. This is followed by security guidelines which inevitably view the presence of women out and about at night, as opposed to their lack of safety and the callous police response, as the real problem. Eventually they all come up with some kind of Cinderella hour which will separate the good girls from the bad ones.
In Gurgaon women should not work after 8 pm. In Kolkata, after its recent rape case, the government has decided pubs should not stay open after 11 pm. Since Mamata Banerjee thinks all rapes in West Bengal are CPM conspiracies, that is apparently the witching hour when the comrades get together to plot rapes. Her Haryana CM counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda was less dismissive of the rape. “The incident was very unfortunate,” he told the media. He thinks advanced technology for the police is the answer. In the Gurgaon case, the victim’s brother approached a police van. They shrugged him off after they called the victim’s mobile and the rapist answered it and pretended they were dropping the young woman home. Mr Hooda did not explain how advanced technology would have prevented that scenario.
The police admittedly cannot be everywhere at all times. But that does not mean that the onus of public safety falls entirely on the public. After a recent spate of robberies in the Salt Lake suburbs of Kolkata, the police initially told frazzled homeowners, many of them elderly and living alone on limited incomes, that they should install state-of-the-art security systems; that they needed to register the names and addresses of all domestic helps and casual labourers working anywhere on their building premises; that they should never leave their houses unattended especially if they are going on vacation. What about the fact that desperate calls to 100, the emergency line at the police station, that went unanswered? “After all (the policeman) has to go to the toilet once in awhile,” retorted a senior officer.
If the police are going to wash their hands off the entire affair, here is an alternative solution that's getting some buzz on Twitter: how about a curfew on all the men in Gurgaon after 8 pm?