Tech-aided crime fighting/prevention is gaining ground world-wide. Thus, Mumbai Police’s proposal to make the city safe, especially for women, with panic buttons across locations, aerial surveillance through drones backed by facial recognition software and video analysis tools, etc, seems the right step forward. The proposal will rely on mapping of crime-prone areas from past reports of crimes against women. The city will use this to mount faster response to distress signals from women residents. The city police estimates a cost of over Rs 250 crore, which, as per a report in The Indian Express, is expected to be met from the Nirbhaya Fund set up by the Centre. The Centre had in fact announced last year that eight cities—Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, apart from Mumbai—will be developed as safe cities with women’s safety and security in mind.
While a focus on women’s safety is a must in the metros—in fact, Delhi and the other cities in the safe city plan must take a cue from Mumbai—the efforts have to also be directed at smaller cities and rural areas that have poor policing and security infrastructure. That apart, the Nirbhaya Fund was set up after the 2012 gangrape and murder of a young Delhi student with a goal to improve safety for women. With Rs 825 crore of a corpus of over Rs 2,900 crore spent, the record has been far from impressive. So, it remains to be seen whether the ministry for women and child development that was made the nodal ministry for the fund in 2015 can act fast enough. Countering crimes against women is also about changing attitudes of the masses at large. So, while drones and panic buttons are a must, so is spreading greater awareness among citizens that can help shape the correct attitude towards women.