No night-drop facility, unsafe public transport, unimplemented safety norms…

The fear is palpable. Working women not just in the capital but across the country are jittery as violence against them is on the rise and doesn’t seem to differentiate between the young and the old.

The recent gang-rape of a 23-year-old paramedic student in New Delhi has only enhanced this fear but also brought back memories of past incidences.

While offices, especially those that keep odd hours like BPOs, take precautions such as drop facilities, many women still feel vulnerable.

A young mediaperson working in the city said the recent rape has prompted her employer to provide a drop-off facility at her office for women employees who work late.

Office transport not the solution

“I feel scared to walk alone on the road, especially at night and don’t trust the public transport. While my office plans to provide transport at night, that is not the solution,” she said, requesting anonymity. Another journalist said, “One look at the India Gate and the surrounding areas of Central Delhi and one could think the city is under siege. It is funny that to stamp down a reasonable protest the Government could bring out all its arsenal, but for the safety of the citizen there are never enough police.”

She also asked if the Home Minister and the Prime Minister had forgotten that they too have daughters. It took them almost five-seven days to remember that they are fathers of daughters, many rue.

“This isn’t the first rape in the city? If they are so concerned, why haven’t they even moved the Bill on sexual harassment till now?” is the common refrain.

A doctor, working in a well-known private hospital, said that doctors, too, have very odd working hours and getting back home late at night is a big security issue. “While I drive back, many of my juniors and colleagues do not have their own conveyance. And even driving back on my own late at night does raise a big question of safety,” she says.

She added that no hospital in the city has provisions to drop doctors and nurses after duty hours, even late at night.

Safety norms not implemented

Aparna Mudi, who has worked with organisations in the social sector and is now in the media, said: “There are safety procedures in the dossiers, but those need to be implemented.” She said that while many companies reimburse expenses on cabs, they often do not provide safe services on their own.

She recounted that in her last organisation one of her juniors was harassed by a client and instead of taking action against the prized client, the girl was asked to leave the job.

Sana Arora, who works at a call centre in the city, said that her office has always ensured the safety of all women members. However, she feels that there is a feeling of danger lurking, especially among working women.

According to a survey by Assocham, the working population in the country has no confidence in the security bodies. The report added that almost 88 per cent of the women respondents said they have started getting more calls while at work from home — parents or husband — after the incident.

Task Force

Meanwhile, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) have decided to set up an Industry Task Force on Safety of Women. There are over 31 per cent economically active women in India’s work force, FICCI said.

The task force would look at developing a National Safety Policy for Women to be adopted by industry, envision a safe environment for women by sensitising all the stakeholders — whether infrastructure related, police, and other civic as well as decision makers.

aesha.datta@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 25, 2012)
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