New Delhi: Policy planners are adopting inclusive urbanization as a means to create gender-friendly cities. Close on the heels of the justice J.S. Verma committee advocating better street lighting and using street vending as a means to deter crime against women, a Delhi government body has also recommended similar steps.
A safety audit by an urban planning body under the Delhi Development Authority has identified four “vulnerable” areas in the Capital—Dwarka sub city, Nehru Place district centre, the Dhaula Kuan cloverleaf and the outer ring road (Munirka-Mahipalpur), where the 16 December gang-rape took place. The Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre, or Uttipec, is going to prepare a pilot plan for a micro-level project involving other city planning and engineering agencies, including mu nicipal corporations, to suggest measures to make these areas safer for women.
“A pilot project is going to be carried out in one of these four vulnerable locations identified during the safety audit. Based on the existing situation, problem areas or unsafe patches will be identified and then all government bodies responsible for maintaining that area will work towards making it safer in the best way possible,” said a senior government official who requested anonymity. Measures undertaken in the pilot will be replicated in other vulnerable or unsafe areas in the city, the person said.
The Congress party-led Delhi state government recently faced flak from all quarters over women’s safety in the Capital following the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus on 16 December. While the woman succumbed to her injuries at a Singapore hospital on 29 December, the incident triggered protests and a debate on the connect between urban planning and safety of women.
The Verma committee, which was set up by the government to suggest amendments to criminal laws in cases of violence against women, has also highlighted the need to plan cities better to ensure their safety, including measures such as encouraging street vending to make bus stops and pavements safer for communities and pedestrians.
Delhi lieutenant governor Tejinder Khanna, who headed the governing body meeting of Uttipec on 16 January, agreed that organized street vending at vulnerable and secluded spots would ensure safety while providing a livelihood to people, said the government official cited above. The official said more than 12 decisions were taken at the meeting.
These include proper lighting of dark patches and vulnerable areas for women around the city in 15 days, adequate provision of public toilets with regular upkeep and maintenance, and pedestrian gates of residential colonies to be opened for easy access.
Ranjan Mukherjee, officer on special duty to Khanna, said on Friday that the minutes of the meeting had not been finalized.
A meeting of the security commission for NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi on 17 January, also chaired by Khanna, decided that 255 chosen routes should be patrolled at night and street lights should be installed at 1,600 identified areas by the concerned civic agencies to prevent crime.
Urban planning needs to be more gender inclusive, said Kalpana Viswanath, an expert on women’s safety and gender-inclusive cities who is associated with New Delhi-based women’s empowerment group Jagori.
“We have to ensure that forms of sexual violence other than rape, like stalking and molestation, also need to be discussed,” she said. “The whole issue needs to be expanded beyond rape and how to address rape. This is more about creating spaces where women can feel safe, rather than taking measures after an incident occurs.”
The 630-page Verma committee report, which has a chapter on Provision of adequate safety measures and amenities in respect of women, has suggested provisions such as having security personnel in public transport vehicles plying between 5.30pm and 7.30am, well-lit public vehicles with drivers who have been vetted by the police, fitting all buses with tamper-proof global positioning system units and installing closed-circuit television cameras inside each bus in all metropolitan cities.
“Such enforcements have become necessary although they may be a drain on state exchequer, but having regard to the shameful incidents of rape which have been witnessed in India over the last five to six decades, it has become necessary to make this recommendation,” the committee said.