Mumbai: Shweta Sethi, 29, an employee of a national TV channel in Delhi, feels unsafe and insecure these days.
“I leave office late in the night and I don’t feel safe at all. I carry a pocket knife but I think I should carry chilli powder or pepper spray from now on,” she said.
The gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in the national capital has led to women in Indian cities scout for security options for protection but experts say these measures are reactive and there is a long way to go when it comes to implementation of even basic security measures.
“Usually, when an incident like this happens, and is flashed across media, there is a surge of sales for a few days. That is the case right now,” said Rana Singh, the co-founder and owner of AAX Global, which manufactures Cobra pepper sprays.
In the aftermath of the incident in Delhi, the Bangalore-based AAX saw a spike in sales of pepper sprays and within three days it ran out of stock. The company usually sells between 10,000 and 17,000 pepper spray cans a month.
Likewise, at healthkart.com, the sales of pepper spray has jumped 10 times after the Delhi incident. The website has also given all its women employees a pepper spray bottle.
“There has been a huge surge in orders for pepper sprays. There are a lot of bulk orders apart from B2C (business to consumer) orders,” said Gayatri Seth, head of customer relations management at healthkart.com, an online retailer of mostly healthcare products.
About 60% of the retail buyers were women and around 75% of the orders originated from metro cities, with Delhi topping the list, Seth added.
The demand for security solutions has picked up across corporations and government bodies as well.
“We have noticed that such events (referring to the Delhi rape case) increase the demand for security and safety systems and solutions. This lasts typically for two weeks and then the demand tapers off,” said Dinesh Pillai, chief executive officer, Mahindra Special Services Group, which works with companies and public sector undertakings for installing safety and security solutions. “The attitude towards ensuring security is missing.”
“As a country we are not security conscious. There is not much implementation of security, vigilance systems,” said Pramod Rao, managing director, Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd, which makes electronic security products.
Rao pointed that since 2006 the number of closed circuit cameras in Mumbai remained a minuscule 100.
Mahindra Special Services had a women’s safety training programme, a two-and-a-half hour module imparting self-defence and theory, that it conducts across Indian cities in association with companies and non-government organizations, or NGOs.
In the past four years, since the programme was launched, it has conducted such programmes at 30 corporations. “We haven’t found enough people to sponsor or take up this programme,” said Pillai.
Additionally, even when security measures and budgets are allocated by the management, down the line the accountability for ensuring its implementation is missing.
For instance, there is already a law for tinted glasses. Vehicles are not supposed to have tinted glasses, but there are vehicles on the roads with tinted glasses.
“Right now, the need is to amend the laws and set an example that will deter people from committing such crimes,” said Pillai of Mahindra Special Services Group.
With the advent of smart phones and broadband connectivity, the number of so-called apps or application softwares that aid safety measures are also picking up.
An example of these are Eyewatch, I am Safe, Scream Alarm and so on.
These apps track a person’s whereabouts and on the press of a button can send out an alarm and alert people of any incident.
“We are working on a concept to track where women are. We are internally studying it now and over time will check its suitability for scaling up,” said Rao of Zicom Electronic Security Systems.