It is said that women will not be molested only in societies which have absolutes. The molestation of three young women on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar is unique. Lewd comments by an anti social prompted the girls to retaliate.
A brave action by itself. The man went back to his friends nearby and gathered a group of hooligans who returned to molest the girls. Passers-by turned viewers or observers, no one felt the urge to intervene.
That must have emboldened the criminals even further. The Commissionerate Police was called by the girls but to no avail. Their ‘response time’ was absurdly delayed. This reminded many among the local media to equate the incident with the ‘mass molestation’ among New Year’s Eve revellers in Bangalore, a city that had come to be known for its cosmopolitan culture and thinning social divides.
Although the Bangalore incident had raised several open-ended questions, the Bhubaneswar incident should not be equated with it. This local molestation was much more dangerous and the spin-off leaves a lot more to be answered, not only by authorities but also by citizens.
The most simple, yet perplexing question is: Why do people watch and tolerate such incidents in public places? Unless this question is answered honestly, it would be futile to explore ways to try and address the problem.
From a social viewpoint, the incident could be the result of some wrong people with little knowledge of suitable etiquette and basic humanity being in the wrong place. However, most original residents would have noticed that Bhubaneswar has been gradually but surely inching towards a lawless semi-urban cluster.
Unlike Bangalore, which has had its orgasmic and drug-induced highs, particularly when technology companies boomed and call centres sprouted, Bhubaneswar emerged from a primarily rural surrounding to an unkempt and undisciplined township as we see today.
Over a long period of time the authorities have, somehow, been shareholders in this degradation. The social changes in this third tier town have, no doubt, been phenomenal. Broad tree lined roads, well-connected air and rail connexions and such visible developments apart, the town has not seen any great improvement in school level education or healthcare.
The less said about the situation of the few universities in Bhubaneswar, both deemed (private) and government operated, the better. As if to match this downfall, the policing system, too, has greatly degenerated.
Everyone thought that the formation of a Commissionerate of Police encompassing both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack would bring about a qualitative change in law enforcement. That belief was belied very quickly. Now it has turned into disbelief and frustration because the average citizen feels highly insecure and helpless while living in this town.
While Bhubaneswar is still comparatively a better place to live in, in this country, the abject failures and blatant disregard to justice and peace by the law enforcement authorities is extremely appalling.
The second time this hope was rekindled was when Bhubaneswar was announced as a ‘Smart City’. That also turned out a complete dud because the Union government has lost interest in those kinds of development.
There was a time when politicians used to interfere with daily police operations. Congress toughies, like the BJP now, used to control the streets. The political bosses used to talk directly to police station personnel across the state and show favours to some and discourage others.
All those kinds of problems do not exist now. On the contrary, today, there is absolutely no means of communication that exists between the police and public. Although this may sound as an imbalanced situation to some, the critics too would agree that it gives the police administration an opportunity to show honesty and impartiality along with the greatly required alacrity to take action. Sadly, they have not bothered to trouble themselves with such distinctions.
The molestation incident on the crowded Patia–Nandankanan road and subsequent lethargy exhibited by the cops shows how the higher-ups in the Commissionerate Police have distanced themselves from the populace.
Well ensconced in their regal building, the present lot of superiors has never tried to check ground level operations and consequent public reaction. Seniors probably assume the intelligence input by the DIB is sufficient to control a small hick place like Bhubaneswar-Cuttack.
While regular public interface in the context of meeting senior citizens, businessmen, working/single women, colony residents, commuters and such other ‘vulnerable’ groups is a standard operating procedure (SOP) with most urban law enforcement bosses, the commissionerate leaders seem pretty oblivious of such practices.
The outcome is what we see today. Starting from the basic of proper traffic management on these huge broad roads of the capital to serious crimes such as rapes and murders, the failures have not only been extremely visible but also worrisome.
The twin towns are fast growing in both population as well as geography. To streamline administration and increase efficiency, the police seniors need to be aware of not only the shortage of manpower in police stations or funds for filling gasoline in vehicles or some such cliched excuses but they must also be minutely informed what the citizens deserve and what they are receiving. Allowing insecurity to grow will make policing even more difficult in near future.