Did you read the Delhi newspapers today? Were you stunned by the crime statistics quoted in every mainline newspaper? Were you under some sort of illusion that Delhi was safe to live in? Then you’re either a politician, a “bijness” man’s wife or live in an ivory tower. I was imagining John Kerry, stuck in traffic this morning, headed through flooded streets to IIT – Delhi, reading these reports and thinking, “Wow, if this is acche din, what will the bad days be like?”
Let me synopsise the numbers, before getting to why I’m not surprised that Delhi is the crime capital of India.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), of 53 mega cities in India (those with over one million citizens), Delhi was responsible for over 25 per cent of the 6,76,086 criminal cases reported in 2015. Delhi, which has a population of 163.1 lakh, has a crime rate of 1066.2. For perspective, Mumbai, which has a population of 184.1 lakh, has a crime rate of 233.2. Delhi, showing who’s boss, has surpassed Mumbai in almost every kind of crime.
Take murders. There were 464 murders in Delhi, while 169 took place in Mumbai. There were 96,924 cases of theft in Delhi, as compared to 10,422 in Mumbai. There were 1893 cases of rape in Delhi, compared to 712 in Mumbai. Robbery cases were at a tally of 6,766 in Delhi, while there were at 1,708 in Mumbai. And finally, Delhi topped the “list in cases of kidnapping and abduction — with 6,630 cases — while the number was 1,583 in Mumbai”.
The good thing with Delhi is that it lives up to your expectations, surpasses them in fact. Hum kisise kum nahin. Always the best, even in killing, robbing, raping, looting, kidnapping its denizens. Maybe we should be called Maximum City, instead of Mumbai.
Let me first take a moment to place the responsibility of the crime and law and order situation, right where it needs to be placed. At the doorstep of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his and our Home Minister, Rajnath Singh. If this is the state of affairs when the country’s lord and master and his minions are personally overseeing the crime and law and order situation in the Capital, one can only shudder.
Now here’s why I’m not surprised by these sparkling numbers. I’m from Kolkata, and lived for 2 years on my own in Mumbai when I had just turned 22. I commuted to work by public transport – local train, bus and cab – and went out for dinners and came back late, without an untoward incident.
In the last 16 years that I’ve lived on my own, I travel frequently to Mumbai, and travel back to my hotel alone, often quite late at night. Other than general precautions, I never look over my shoulder or wonder if I’m being followed by anyone. A large number of my female friends have been living alone in Mumbai for almost two decades now. They keep absurd hours at work – and feel absolutely safe living there.
Now come to Delhi. I’ve been living here for the past 13 years. Again, alone. I never travel by public transport, including private cabs, after 9pm. If I don’t have my car and driver, and if a friend can’t drop me home, I stay at home. No party is important enough, for me to run the risk of becoming a statistic.
I, thankfully, have never had an unpleasant experience in Delhi, but I am extremely careful about my movements in the city. I know that my male neighbours and the drivers and guards know when I come and go. They know when I have guests at home and when I’m alone. I have 4 dogs because I know the Delhi lout while being very brave around women, is a pipsqueak around dogs. But it’s honestly a pain to always be on guard and on alert. But better safe than sorry.
My friends and acquaintances haven’t been so lucky. A friend’s 80-year-old mother had 3 men break into her house while she was sleeping, in the heart of a residential colony in Delhi, tie her up, hit her on the head with a rod and burgle her house. She raised an alarm and managed to call the cops. By which time the burglars had fled.
The other night, a friend of mine, my age, told me that someone rang her bell at 2am. She lives alone. When she looked out of the peephole, there were 4 men standing in the dark near the stairwell. They waited for 10 minutes and then left. Another person I know was killed in his farmhouse. A friend was standing in front of the mall, waiting for her car. A bike with two men sped by and grabbed her handbag. No one stopped them. Her wallet and bank papers were in the bag.
Another friend’s driver was stopped in their Scorpio at the turnaround in front of the old airport by two men with guns, they got into the car, shoved him out of the car, and drove off. Another couple I know was on their morning walk, when they were stopped by men on a bike with knives, who took their watches and phones. Another friend was at work and her husband out of town, when she was informed by a neighbour in her tony colony, that her front door was wide open and it seemed someone had burgled her house.
These are all people living in what are considered safe, elite localities. These are all people I know personally. These incidents took place in the last 3 years. Speak to any woman you know in Delhi, who travels or lives alone and you’ll see that she has at least one horror story to relate. And most of these stories cut across genders.
We read about various cases of drivers with private cab companies, molesting or harassing women customers. Ever tried taking a bus in Delhi, if you’re a woman? Unless you want a crash course in molestation, it’s not advisable.
Not everyone is in a position to opt for their own car and driver, instead of taking a bus in Delhi. So a daily level of molestation is simply accepted. It’s a pathetic situation, that the capital of this country sounds like the badlands of Begu Sarai.
Now I’m no shrinking violet who thinks that life is or should be a bed of thornless roses. Unlike other people, I chose to come and live and work in Delhi. I come from a family of working women. My great-grandmother left Calcutta in the Seventies to come live in Delhi and work here as an MP from Assam. She lived alone, as she was a widow.
So we’ve been taught from a very young age, that you go where your work takes you – good or bad. Like most people from smaller cities, I too know that my career will reach new heights if I’m in the Capital. But does that mean that I have to put up with various levels of crime, while doing so?
And this is what is especially distressing. That we’ve come to accept this as a way of life. That none of us bat an eyelid anymore when we read such statistics. That we say, “what’s new?” or crack a joke and get on with the day. We need to put our foot down and ask ourselves and the people in-charge of law and order, what we need to do to change the current pathetic situation. Why we still shudder at the mere thought of going to a police station to report a crime?
Someone needs to be held accountable. Because currently it feels like we’re living in Savdhaan India, but our version has far less entertaining characters and more predictable plot twists.