Rising incidents of rape, sexual harassment and murder in India have once again brought concerns and safety measures for women in Andhra Pradesh to the fore. In a move to address the concerns over women’s safety in the state, Prakasam (Ongole) district police launched a pilot programme called ‘Abhay’ on December 4.
Under the initiative, women in the district will be offered drop services from offices, railway stations or other places to their houses or hostels, free of cost. Women in need of a drop back home can call 100 and will be offered the drop between 9 pm to 5 am.
Each Abhay vehicle will be deployed with women staff who will accompany the women till their doorsteps from any place, specifically in urban areas in the district. The officials in the vehicle will be armed with body cameras and walkie-talkies. These vehicles will be stationed at Ongole city, Chirala, Kandukur and Markapur town.
The senior police officials said that women across the state can avail this drop-home service by dialling 100.
This comes in the wake of the gangrape and murder of 27-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad, which sparked nationwide massive outrage across the nation.
Andhra Pradesh is already seeing outreach programmes by the police, such as ‘Mahila Mitra’ and ‘Cyber Mitra,’ along with ‘Spandana,’ a weekly complaint redressal drive for all citizens in the state.
Under Mahila Mitra (friends of women), a community partnership initiative by Director General of Police (DGP) Gautam Sawang, the police will work with NGOs to understand women’s issues and how to prevent crimes against women and children. While the pilot project launched in January 2017, it began to be implemented across the state in August this year.
Cyber Mitra was launched in July, under which the police deal with cyber crimes against women. Women can register their complaint(s) through Facebook and WhatsApp. The complaints can be registered by messaging the WhatsApp number 9121211100 as well.
According to officials, since July, Cyber Mitra police registered 71 FIRs for a total of 282 cases of online abuse.
Pala Raju IG (Technical Services), said, “We are acting swiftly on complaints that are related to online abuse. In many cases, women complainants are hesitant to pursue the matter, fearing social stigma. However, there have been some changes in this perception due to our outreach drives.”
The police officials in all the districts are also taking up drives to inform women about the services available to them and are encouraging them to approach the officials concerned without fear. Several awareness camps are also being organised in colleges and areas where the female population is higher.
According to an official assessment, 52% out of more than 48,000 complaints that police received since July during the Spandana programmes are from the women. “A total of 11,000 FIRs have been registered till now and the remaining complaints are being actively pursued. This shows that there has been some transformation and impact on the ground,” DGP Gautam Sawang told TNM.
When asked if the initiatives are being taken up as stopgap measures, he said, “The government is highly committed to addressing the crimes against women and children in a systematic and passionate manner. Their security is our top priority. The Mahila Mitra campaign, which was a pilot project in Vijayawada, is being implemented across the state. Grama Mahila volunteers will also work with the police at the rural level and bridge the gap between the public and police.”
Earlier, in the first week of December, the Andhra DGP had ordered police stations across the state to implement the 'zero FIR' rule to record complaints, irrespective of whether the complaint falls under that police station’s jurisdiction.
On Wednesday, the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet approved a draft law on rape, which seeks delivery of verdict within 21 days and death penalty to convicts in cases of ‘heinous offences of rape and gangrape’.