Can we have our safe city tag back, please?

Fiona FernandezIt’s a debate that has consumed reams of newsprint, particularly in this decade. Has Mumbai become unsafe for women? Moreover, it’s a prickly issue depending on how one looks at it, from a micro and macro level, respectively. Having crisscrossed the city, thanks to one’s profession, with relative ease, and often, at the most unlikeliest of hours, the security blanket that the city offered was comforting, a case that one would proudly throw at colleagues and friends from other cities – especially after having spent considerable work time in cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Pune.

We were in safe hands, in the larger picture. This was the thought in our minds when we would step out of our homes every day. But for a while now, and causing a sense of immense uneasiness, have been the series of disturbing events committed against women. The slipping of security measures inside women’s compartments, crimes committed against women on our roads and in our housing colonies, from eve teasing and rape, to bloody murder, seem to have blunted the sparkly image of the city.

One definitive factor that has contributed to this is the image is the devil-may-care safety approach in safeguarding the woman commuter at late hours. Often, one has to bear the sight of a potbellied cop, snoring his troubles away, in one corner even as the few commuters hope to reach home safely – what with cases of chain snatching, eve teasing, vandalism and throat-slitting making for regular horror tales on the daily commute.

It doesn’t end with this. Even if this sleeping savior on the train manages the save the day, what about the middle and third compartment that never has a cop? As has been the case, womenfolk here must fend for themselves against all of the above atrocities. This journalist has been a train commuter for over 15 years, and will have to admit that the state of apathy and sheer lack of intent to protect the average woman commuter has gotten from bad to worse.

It’s not enough that women commuters have a rough time with juggling between work and running homes and families, clamped spaces in crowded trains et al, but having to deal with this constant menace and the impending fear that comes with it, if one keeps late hours, is unfortunate and a bad advertisement for Mumbai’s safe city tag.

One really wonders how many more cases of harassment, violence and other unmentionable acts on our trains would be needed to alert the powers that be to beef up security on our trains. Aren’t they supposed to be our lifelines, after all? Not quite, for the moment.

— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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