Delhi Police is running a multi-pronged women safety campaign. Statistics show, it has made a dent in the crime prone areas

Remember the scene from the 1960s classic To Kill A Mockingbird where a local cop visits Harper Lee's house late in the night to ask if all is well? In many little European towns, such a scene is still a reality, where everyone knows everyone and surely, the local cop.

Cut to our National Capital and what you find is Delhi Police trying to establish a somewhat similar bond with the public. The difference is, the force at the helm of affairs constitutes only women beat constables, considered not so adequate for field jobs till some time ago. And the members of public that the cops particularly link up with, are colony women.

Running since mid 2005 under the banner of Parivartan, the initiative, importantly, has made a dent in not just lowering crime rate against women in some of the most vulnerable areas of the city, but has also facilitated a vital close peek into life and activities in various colonies, turning community policing an increasingly more efficient tool. It has also helped the Force solve petty problems at the ground level itself.

Sagar Preet Hooda, DCP (North), to whom goes the credit for formulating the idea, explains the genesis of Parivartan, “Police can't be everywhere, this is a mechanism to help us prevent crime against women, not just in public places but in their homes too. The beat constables are in constant touch with the colony women, they share their mobile numbers with them so that they can contact them in trouble.” Many women, he underlines, are apprehensive of approaching the police. This is where the role of women cops is important. “Women bond easily with women and that they know someone in the police gives these vulnerable women a sense of confidence to fight crime not just for them but for the neighbours too. We have cases where people complained against domestic violence in the neighbourhood and we have intervened.”

Each month, the beat constables (usually a group of three in a beat box) organise a community meeting where the area SHO is present. “The problems which can't be locally solved, go to the SHO.”

At such a meeting held in Timarpur's Gandhi Nagar area, as many as 45 local women are seen gathering at the foyer of a monastery. Among many grievances, a frail, elderly woman is heard complaining about her daughter-in-law beating her up everyday. The neighbours nod in agreement and her details are immediately taken to register her in DP's senior citizen initiative. “Amma, a woman constable will visit you everyday, this will send out a message to your daughter-in-law,” inspector Alka Sharma gives the solution. Yet another teary eyed woman gets up to talk about her brother-in-law depriving her husband of the family property. “We don't deal with property issues, you have to go to the court. If they try to physically harm you, then it becomes our work,” clarifies the SHO. The three women constables of the area coordinate the meeting, constantly flipping through a register with problems solved, and those to be referred to the SHO.

Points out Hooda, “Wherever an SHO has been active, the initiative has worked quite well. He has to ensure that the beat constables regularly visit their areas.” He mentions, “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. It has worked quite well in crime prone areas like Jehangirpuri and Mangolpuri.”

Bonding with women in a locality is just one aspect of Parivartan. It also conducts regular workshops to teach self defence tactics to women, holds awareness camps against domestic violence and child abuse besides holding legal awareness camps. Hooda adds, “We have a vehicle with an LCD screen which travels across Delhi to show documentaries against violence against women and children.”

Yet another vital cog in Parivartan is its issue-driven mime shows conducted in the jhuggi-jhopri colonies. The shows are done by the NGO, Jagran. In one such show conducted at the Valmiki Colony in Civil Lines, three “nataks” are presented to a packed audience. They cover issues of drug abuse, wife beating and alcoholism, and sexual abuse of young girls often caused due to irresponsibility on the part of the parents. Arijit Roy, Jagran's director , freezes a scene where an actor commits a mistake on stage and asks the public, “Kya inhone theek kiya hain? Agar nahi to sahi kya hain?”

Parivartan is currently running in Outer, North and North West districts of Delhi and is likely to be implemented by South East district. At Hooda's office, over 30 women constables from SE district have just been introduced to Parivartan through a two-day workshop. A sociologist from Delhi University, and Dr. Rajat Maitra, psychiatrist and director of the NGO Swanchetan, address the gathering. Dr. Mitra explains how to handle rape victims humanely and ways of catching possible paedophiles in our colonies. “Paedophilia is not a western disease, we have it here too. Children need to know that they should respect elders only when they behave their age,” he says.

Dr. Mitra shares with them a bad example of treating rape victims. “Once a lady doctor in a Government hospital here reprimanded a rape victim for walking slowly. She said, ‘You were raped two months ago, why are you walking so slowly?' Remember, women can also be insensitive to women's issues.” Hooda says it will take about a year's training to prepare the new batch. “Many women constables are themselves victims of violence. It will take them some time to be confident.”