The waning charm of the Capital

Ever since the unfortunate 16 December gang-rape incident in 2012, the spate of crime against women in the Capital has shaken the national conscience.

This is evident in the fact that Delhi earned the title of the ‘most unsafe city’ by women travellers, two times over. More recent in the series comes a survey by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry that reveals, owing to the incidents post the Nirbhaya assault, 43 per cent of women from other parts of the country, already working in Delhi or looking for a job  here, are now seeking greener pastures outside the Capital, even at the cost of taking a hit to their salaries. It may not suggest a shift in mindset, translating into real numbers (hopefully), but it definitely brings back the debate around the safety or the lack of it, for women in Delhi. Is Delhi no longer a preferred place of work topping the charts of aspiring women professionals? Metrolife gauges the sentiment around it.

“When I came to Delhi, in 2007, to pursue my studies; even then, I was very much aware of the grim reality of the City. Everytime I took an auto-rickshaw, I used to pretend, before the driver, that I was sending the vehicle number to a close friend, and would not heave a sigh of relief till the autorickshaw drew up at the right place. There used to be reports about eve teasing and rape incidents in specific areas and, also, around specific educational institutions meant for women; and, we outstation girls, at best, had to determine that we never visited that reported area,” says Sangya Supatra who hails from Bihar. Dwelling by the recent scenario, she adds, “It’s not that we only avoid the rape-prone areas; in fact, we keep shrinking our public space---eschewing bus rides, or passing any Government boys' secondary schools to avoid the leering hoodlums and their lascivious remarks. Nirbhaya’s case has only brought the longstanding issue to the front. The problem is deeply rooted in the patriarchal mindset,” says the young gun who is pursuing M. Phil. 

Palak Sharma, an executive working in a South Delhi NGO, states, “I believe and propagate the idea of individual efforts---living independently, yet cautiously. So, there’s no way I would want to move out of the Capital. But miniscule efforts like texting your closest (geographically) person about your situation if you sense something odd, is a precaution I would want to advocate. Even though in my work sector, we don’t get any cabs to go back home late in the night, we make sure, we tag along with colleagues if it gets too late in night. What’s the harm in taking precautions for your own safety?”

Defying the stance that the survey projects, an IT professional, Padma Jha, working in Noida says, “We come to Metros like Delhi to earn, earn really well and then soak in its culture, and get settled down here. I have never thought of shifting base, even when I was not married. Now when such questions pop up, the only thing that keeps crossing my mind is, I have never been in an IT company which didn’t have a skewed sex ratio, obviously tilting towards males.

All these companies happen to be operating from far-flung sectors like Sector 62 in Noida. It becomes dauntingly difficult to come back, in the absence of any cab services offered by the offices.” When prodded, Padma adds as an afterthought, “Think of safety, and only the work culture of Bengaluru comes to my mind. I might want to check it out once, if we decide to shift together.”

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