State government shaken up by tremors of Delhi rape protest
Prithviraj Chavan holds meeting to assess administration's preparedness in dealing with crimes against women; home minister promises more female cops on streets
Even as authorities in the national capital responded to the outpouring of outrage of the citizenry following the brutal rape of a 23-year-old woman by turning the city into a fortress and suspending a few cops, the Democratic Front government in the state went into a huddle to take stock of the situation and put its house in order. A hush-hush meeting was held yesterday evening at the Sahyadri guesthouse in the city.
Sources say Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan undertook a review of the response of the state home department and the police to cases of crime against women.
The scenario in Delhi has had its repercussions in Mumbai, as the city has witnessed a few protest marches in the last two-three days. Also, memories of displays of public ire at Gateway of India after 26/11 and the subsequent turmoil at the government level are still fresh and the state wants to go cautiously on the issue, sources said.
Senior officials from the home department and police were asked to attend yesterday’s meeting. The state government-appointed committee headed by Justice (retd) Chandrashekhar Dharma-dhikari has already submitted its views on effective handling of cases of atrocities against women.
After the exhaustive report was submitted last year, the government proposed stringent punishments under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in such cases. But the implementation is yet to kick off, though a circular was issued by the state director general of police. The government has accepted most of the recommendations of the committee, a senior official said, adding, some of those pertained to increased jail term under section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC, from the present two years with penalty to seven years of non-bailable and non-compoundable imprisonment and trial in a sessions court. The committee also advocated amending IPC section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) to make it non-compoundable and non-bailable, with three years of jail term instead of the present period of one year, along with penalty.
Meanwhile, NCP MP Supriya Sule has demanded withdrawal of excess security cover provided to ministers. “Why should they be afraid?” asked the Baramati MP during a rally at Amravati yesterday. These security personnel can be utilised to protect women, she said in presence of her father NCP chief Sharad Pawar, and Home Minister RR Patil.
Addressing the rally, Patil said the state has recruited 17,000 women in the police force and 20,000 more will be drafted in the next five years.