Interview: Have to ensure women feel safe, says Delhi’s new police chief
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By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal
New Delhi’s police force considers women’s safety as one of its primary tasks, its new police chief Bhim Sain Bassi said in an interview on Tuesday. Bassi takes over the job on July 31, succeeding Neeraj Kumar who held the post for 13 months.
Ensuring safety for women in Delhi is no small task. The city is dealing with the aftermath of last December’s fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student, which sparked riots and criticism of the police.
On a deeper level, it raised questions about how men treat women daily in New Delhi, a city of nearly 17 million people, and one that earned the unfortunate nickname of “India’s rape capital” after the attack.
Bassi, 57, who joined the police three decades ago, spoke to India Insight in an interview at the Delhi Police headquarters. Here are edited excerpts:
There’s a general perception that the police are not helpful. How do you plan to change that?
Policemen obviously assert that they are doing their utmost. Notwithstanding this belief and assertion on their part, it is also true that the public at times is not satisfied with the service which is being rendered by the police organization. Undoubtedly, there is a need to address the issue so that … not only do we do our best, but also the people know about it.
How do you plan to get rid of the ‘rape capital’ tag?
Delhi Police have been conscious of the need to ensure the safety of women, and have been taking … a variety of steps in that direction. Particularly after the Dec. 16 incident, a number of measures have been added … if you see of late, there is definitely a perception among women in Delhi that the police are doing a lot, and that needs to be reinforced by our action on the ground.
Another issue with women’s safety and rape is that some politicians and other people tend to think that it’s a matter of how a woman dresses.
I do not agree. … but as far as we’re concerned, our charter is that women [should] feel safe anywhere in the city at any hour, whether they are at home, whether they are at the office, whether they are on the way to the office, or at any restaurant.
Are you planning something specific?
We have identified routes which are frequented by ladies or young girls. Special patrolling is being ensured along those routes. Roads and streets which lead to offices where women are working, or the paying guest accommodations where the women who are not from this city [live], and girls’ schools and colleges — special patrolling around these areas is being ensured.
Is women’s safety at the top of the agenda?
Women’s safety is one of the primary tasks which we have to shoulder because they are the vulnerable segment of our society. They are far more vulnerable than their male counterparts … We have to ensure that they feel safe and secure.
Some people have said that the police aren’t sensitive to women’s needs when they are the victims of crimes. How do you fix that?
All basic training courses, whether for the constabulary or senior officers, include lectures on gender sensitization. Apart from basic training, gender sensitization courses are important segments of our refresher courses … every policeman today understands that he has to be sympathetic to a woman who comes to a police station.
False complaints are another issue. Do you plan to sensitize your police force on tackling such issues?
A person who comes to a police station cannot be shooed away. Whatever be their complaint, it has to be admitted.
Why is there a perception that it is impossible to register a first information report (FIR)?
I am of firm belief that we have to ensure the free registration of cases. If a person comes to a police station, and his complaint [entails the] commission of a cognizable offence, a case must be registered, an investigation undertaken with speed, and a report [must be] submitted to the court after the completion of the investigation.
If a person gets frustrated by their dealings with the police, how can they reach you?
They can not only drop a mail, they can also personally visit … There is a system of grievance handling in the police headquarters also … The joint commissioners of police [and] special commissioners of police also meet members of public … even I will be meeting those whose grievances are not redressed.
Our chief minister has often spoken about how the Delhi Police should be under her control. What is your take on that?
I have not given any thought to this issue.