The worst fears of data analyst Ragini Sharma came true recently when she was waiting for public transport near her office after finishing a night shift.
“Three visibly drunk men, who first stood at a distance, came menacingly close to me. I swatted one of them in fear when he tried to touch me. Before they could do anything more, I hopped on a bus that had arrived in the nick of time,” she said.
The 33-year-old is just one of the many Delhi-NCR women battling such harrowing situations because many private firms, including some BPOs and corporate offices, often don’t drop home their night-shift female employees.
Purnima Kapoor’s is another case in point.
The 28-year-old had to quit her South Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar office that didn’t drop her home after her night shifts.
“My parents often objected to my late working hours, more so after the gang rape and murder of a Hyderabad doctor last month. Cabs for me were available only till 9 pm. They would take me till the Metro station, still two hours from where I live,” she said.
Clearly, Metro doesn’t solve women like Purnima’s problems. It’s the last-mile commute that remains most dangerous.
“Every day, I went home while talking to my mother on phone,” she said. Such situations must be understood in the light of the fact that the police have identified as many as 2,000 dark and dangerous stretches in Delhi where criminals often target vulnerable women.
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
After the horrific December 16 gang rape and murder, the Delhi Police made it mandatory for private companies to drop their night-shift female employees home.
“The order, issued under Section 144 of the CrPC, which defines night hours (from 8 pm to 7 am), also makes it compulsory for employers to ensure that a security guard accompanies the woman employee to her residence,” said Anil Mittal, Additional Spokesperson, Delhi Police.
The guard has to ensure her safe arrival if the office vehicle cannot drop her right outside her house, he said.
“If the employer is violating the order, he or she is liable to be punished under Section 188 (disobedience of an official order) of IPC which entails imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both,” Mittal cautioned.
MS Randhawa, Delhi Police Spokesperson and DCP (Central District), said cops will take action against violators.
“Delhi Police visit workplaces from time to time to ensure women’s safety,” he said. Supreme Court advocate Nipun Saxena also said that as per the law, the employer must take all due reasonable care to ensure that the employee is safely escorted to her residence.
“The employer shall be liable if on account of negligence there is any mishap with the woman,” he said.
IMPLEMENTATION OFTEN ON PAPER
The Factories Act of 1948 also says a cab with either a male associate or security guard must drop a woman employee home if she is working beyond 7 pm. But poor implementation remains a concern.
“I have been working for two years and often take an autorickshaw or a cab to return home. I feel insecure whenever I have to pass through an isolated or badly lit stretch,” said Rachna Gupta, a 23-year-old Noida resident.
“Public transport is in bad shape. I have often felt scared on streets,” said Sakshi, a 32-yearold Ghaziabad resident. Ekta Mathur, a 30-year-old HR professional at a reputed Noida firm, admitted that many companies in Delhi, Noida and Gurugram are only partially following guidelines and have made their own policies.
“They are providing cabs only till the nearest Metro station or bus stop, letting female staff reach home on their own,” she said.
Ramesh Chaudhary, a Noida firm manager, said, “We do not have enough resources so we safely drop women staff to the nearest Metro station till 9.30 pm. The office closes around 10 pm and we have instructed women staff to leave before 8 pm,” he said.
Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson Swati Maliwal said she has received multiple complaints of women not receiving police help when they sought it.
“In such cases, DCW sends notice to the Delhi Police. A report is sent to a DCW member who follows the case from the Delhi Police’s proceedings to the court,” she said. On the 181 DCW helpline number, women can file complaints at any time of the day, she said.
AUTHORITIES WAKING UP?
The death of a 23-year-old woman, who had been set afire by a group of men including her alleged rapists in UP’s Unnao, at a Delhi hospital on December 6 has finally woken up authorities, it seems.
Last week, Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh issued a direction to commercial establishments, including those in NCR towns of Noida and Ghaziabad, to drop night-shift women employees home.
This came two days after a Superintendent of Police in UP’s Hardoi was seen, in a viral video, pulling up a hotel official for letting a woman employee return home unaccompanied after a late-night shift.
“If any woman dials 112 and asks for help, a Police Response Vehicle (PRV) would drop her at her desired destination,” said Noida SSP Vaibhav Krishna.
It is mandatory to have a woman cop even in the PRV. The Noida Police have asked establishments, including hotels and call centres, to drop night-shift women employees home. Similarly, the Gurugram Police have also been asked to remain vigilant.
“We are planning to provide new PCR vans to each police station and 400 new vehicles are being purchased,” the state’s Home Minister, Anil Vij said, recently.
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