With the demand growing for taking urgent steps to improve safety of women in the aftermath of the sensational gang-rape and murder of a physiotherapy student in a moving bus in Delhi, academicians and social workers have called upon the Delhi Police to intervene at the community level and revive its community policing programmes such as Parivartan. This, they insist, will address the root cause of gender-based violence that is structured around the dynamics of power and domination.
“There is an urgent need to improve the law and order situation in Delhi which is widely perceived to be unsafe for women, but there is an equal need for effective community policing as well. The two are not independent of each other and go hand-in-hand. The need for community policing is more in the case of the lower strata of society living in slums and resettlement colonies in order to check the behaviour of delinquents. There should be more female police personnel in khaki like the initiative taken by the Delhi Police through one of its community policing programmes called Parivartan,” said Pamela Singla, Associate Professor of Social Work at Delhi University.
Launched in 2005 in response to an upward trend in violence against women such as rapes in Delhi, Parivartan went beyond problem-oriented policing for a comprehensive and multi-dimensional approach to the issue through changes in the functioning of the police and redress of societal evils at the community level.
To begin with, the programme was launched on 20 beats of North-West Delhi with high unemployment rate, poor physical and social infrastructure and relatively large proportion of migrated population.
“It was a very well-designed programme with its key feature being assigning beats to women constables in a first one-its-kind initiative. It had pantomime shows on rapes and domestic violence to sensitise communities in slums and identifying women leaders to carry forward the programme. But for me the highlight of the programme was sensitising students at the school level through lectures and group discussions. It was like training them young,” said Dr. Singla, who has been associated with the programme since 2006.
Ambedkar University academic fellow Kopal Chaube, who has also been associated with the programme, added: “My experience with Parivartan shows that its first major contribution was to make women accept that violence against them was a problem. Earlier, the women did not perceive violence against them as violence. ‘My husband loves me so it is okay if he beats me’ is how they would respond to it. And not just domestic violence, they wanted to keep other forms of violence also under wraps. When women police constables started visiting them at their houses, these women started talking about it. It also brought out the humane face of policing.”
Though the programme produced tangible results with gradual decrease in rape cases and won recognition at the national and international levels, it remained mostly confined to North-West and Outer Delhi for various reasons and has since almost ceased to exist.
“Staff crunch was one of the major hurdles in the expansion of the programme. The women constables associated with the programme perceived it as an additional burden. There must be dedicated additional staff for effective implementation of Parivartan. Also the programme got associated with Dr. Sagar Preet Hooda, who was behind the concept, and lost track after he was posted out of Delhi Police. It should be associated with the Delhi Police and implemented effectively as a model,” said Dr. Singla.
On why there was a need for the police to run such a programme when several non-government organisations are working on violence against women, Ms. Chaube explained: “It is true that many organisations have been taking up women’s issues, but when the State takes them up it makes a huge difference. It makes people believe that now there will be some action initiated to resolve their problems. Parivartan was a novel approach. Women hesitate to approach the police in this country for several reasons. If implemented at the national-level, the programme will make a difference and give the police a humane face.”