The Delhi Police Commissioner says his resignation will not help solve the problem of rising rape cases in the Capital. What can, the records show, is Parivartan — a community policing initiative launched in 2005. Why is it not given necessary attention then, asks Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty.

Here is a task for you. May be you are already doing it. Run your eyes through your morning newspaper, let’s say for about a month, and total the number of reports relating to sexual assault of women in the country’s Capital. What you get is a sizeable number. Enough to leave you scrambling for their possible triggers. And that is when you will find some blaming the legal system for not delivering adequately and police not being vigilant enough, some others on glamorisation of depravity in Bollywood films and easy availability of pornographic material on the Internet, etc. And there is still no dearth of those opinion makers who pipe up with lines like the ‘girl was asking for it’, ‘she was not careful enough’, ‘was dressed inappropriately.’ (Wonder what the five-year-old rape victim from East Delhi was wearing.)

And then you hear Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar saying he is “willing to resign (from his post) a 1000 times but it won’t address the problem.” The top cop, you know, is correct there. More is required here than just the head’s head rolling symbolically. Maintaining law and order is the primary duty of our police. But what it polices is the society and therefore, it has a societal role too. And with modernity thumping our doors at top speed, the society is fast changing, discarding many traditional mores without empowering its people on how best to handle these changes. Thus generating considerable unrest in many. And like in any conflict situation, where violence is key, here too women and children bear the brunt of it.

Not that such sociological thinking has not happened in the country’s most prestigious force — also one of the world’s largest metropolitan police networks. One has to look back only at 2005 when a rising number of gender-based crimes, particularly the Dhaula Kuan rape case, led Delhi Police “to do something” other than its usual role of playing cat and mouse with law breakers. The result was Parivartan, a multi-pronged initiative aimed at promoting community policing and thereby addressing gender-based crimes. In 2010, the brain behind the initiative, Sagar Preet Hooda, the then Additional DCP of North-West district — identified as one of the city’s “hot spots” for crimes like rape — had told this correspondent, “In 2005, there were 65 cases of rape in Delhi. In 2009, it has come down to 11. Parivartan must have played a role in it.”

Hooda, a post-graduate in sociology, had a multi-pronged game plan. Formulated with inputs from sociologists, NGOs operating in the field, community members and clinical psychologists.

Delhi Police, on noting a dent in crime records, soon implemented Parivartan in the Outer district with a plan to spread it to all districts. In 2007, the North-West initiative bagged ISO certification besides picking up international awards and lecture sessions at prestigious institutes like LSE, London.

Rajan Bhagat, Delhi Police PRO, now says, “Parivartan has been implemented in all the districts of Delhi.” If by implementation, Bhagat meant holding a few mime shows and employing some women constables on beats, he might be right, say those associated with the initiative from its inception. “With Hooda transferred out (in 2010), it is no more the same initiative,” states Pamela Singla, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, Delhi University. Singla should know as she had held many gender sensitisation workshops for women constables in the North-West district. She mentions a few names of senior police officers after Hooda left “who took an interest” but highlights, “allocation of limited manpower to Parivartan has affected it.”

“Not that police don’t want to do it. Maintaining law and order becomes their primary job. I was regularly told my sessions will have to wait as they have to be deployed elsewhere. So without a dedicated team, the programme has naturally failed to deliver results,” she says.

Rajat Mitra, clinical psychologist and founder, Swanchetan Society for Mental Health, concurs, “I noticed a streak of idealism in the police officers then. I felt they wanted to do something to make a difference, go the extra mile to change the usual image of the police as a corrupt, uncouth lot. So they could make a difference. Today, it has failed because DP didn’t institutionalise the initiative.” So much so that funding has become an issue now. “I stopped my workshops in 2011 because it was left to me to do everything. So many times, I spent from my own pocket to get things required for the workshops.”

Arijit Roy of the NGO Jagran, which does mime shows for Parivartan, has the same story to relate. “Till some time ago I was paid Rs.5000 for a show. How do you do it with so little money when you have 10 actors to pay? It was then raised to Rs.7500.” That too was not paid to him for a long time. “I fail to understand why it is such a struggle for funds especially when the initiative proved that it can make a change,” he says.

Bhagat says, “We can’t have separate funding for every scheme. It goes from the Delhi Police budget.” Roy though, points out, “The Delhi Police budget is going up every year but not that of Parivartan.” He now gets “the approval of the concerned DCP for the mime shows in writing” before going ahead with them.

Mitra and Roy point at interesting perspectives on why Parivartan might have lost its vim. “Parivartan could have done so much. Such programmes need time to show results. The problem is, the seniors didn’t show any interest in it. Also, after some time, the force’s whole focus shifted from tackling gender-based crimes to terrorism,” notes Mitra. Roy adds, “The North-West district just can’t give up Parivartan because it has an ISO certification. But the force’s attention generally has been shifted to its Yuva programme.” Singla also points out that no baseline study was done to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme.

The Parivartan website started by Hooda exists but it has not been updated for over two years now. Hooda, now Personal Secretary, Minister of Home (State), says, “Not that police don’t want to implement Parivartan. They don’t know how to do it.” He also blames the media for not giving any support to the programme.

Gender rights activist Ranjana Kumari throws in the “jealousy” angle. “They are not bothered whether a programme is working or not. When they see one person (Hooda) getting all the attention, they try and stop it. That is how, after he left, it lost its spirit.” Though Ranjana states she was called just once to conduct a gender sensitisation workshop with Delhi policemen, Bhagat says, “We do at least one such session a month.”

Despite all, the Justice J.S. Verma report took note of Parivartan’s potential and suggested that “it be studied carefully and replicated across the country.” Shantanu Sen, OSD to Lt. Governor Tejender Khanna, who briefed Justice Verma on the initiative, notes, “Parivartan definitely needs more funds and more dedicated officers.”

Is Neeraj Kumar listening?