Making a case for cops' eyes and ears

From increasing the security at Metro Stations and bus stops to installing CCTV cameras in markets etc, the Government is spending huge sums to stop crime against women.

But they fail to relate to the simple fact that the easiest way to provide a safer environment to Delhi’s women is by encouraging street vendors and hawkers. “They play a major role in informing the police about any untoward incident which in turn helps us to stop a possible crime or solve a pending case,” shares DCP, North Sindhu Pillai adding, “The street vendors are also considered a significant part of our ‘Eyes and Ears Scheme’.”

Introduced by Delhi Police in early 2008, this scheme keeps the identities of the
informers confidential while availing crucial information. Crimes such as robberies and thefts have been often been averted with the help of ‘informers’ who are present even during wee hours.

The fact raises pertinent questions on news reports of endeavours to make Rajpath a no-hawking zone due to security reasons owing to terror alerts. 

But women feel differently. “Even the presence of one odd ice cream vendor on a lonely road makes us feel safe,” says Akansha Varshneya, a graduate of IP College. “I used to often get late after Mass Comm classes and then I feared travelling alone to the Metro Station from Civil Lines. After dark, even the PCR vans vanished and the desolate area was tailor-made for miscreants. I know of atleast five-six cases, where my classmates were assaulted. Contrarily, if there was even one vendor present, even hostellers felt safe,” she elucidates.

The scene is similar across Delhi. Women can’t be accompanied by men all the time. But it isn’t enough to depend on technology for their safety. A recent report by a Delhi-based Jagori clearly stated that, “a large number of women were found on the streets even after dark, where vegetable and fruit vendors, and those hawking household items were present in big numbers. In areas where weekly markets are held, unaccompanied women shop late into the night without fear.” Thus the need to strengthen links between cops and vendors arises.

But the cops are often seen shooing off the hawkers. “Vendors face constant threat of eviction,” says Ranjit Abhigyan, programme manager at National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) and adds, “Till the time we give money to MCD and DP, we can put up our cart anywhere. This is the result of the ‘protection money racket’ encouraged over the years.”

In a recent case regarding the removal of hawkers from Rajpath to avoid any terrorist threat, the street vendors have faced a major loss in their business. “It is the unregulated growth of street vendors due to absence of a controlled government procedure that their numbers have gone up. It was only when they joined the NASVI that the police asked them to vacate.”

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