The idea is to promote ‘prevention’ over ‘reaction’, by promoting Bengaluru City Police’s redressal tools – Namma 100 and Suraksha App.

A Billion Eyes BPAC Bengaluru police launch campaign to encourage bystander intervention
news Campaign Saturday, October 07, 2017 - 09:15

‘I pledge not to look away,

Not to remain silent;

But to see, hear, and act,

To create a safer Bengaluru.’

This was the pledge the Bengaluru Political Action Committee (BPAC) and Bengaluru Police took on Friday evening, launching their campaign A Billion Eyes- For a Safer Bengaluru on bystander intervention.

It is not uncommon in today’s time to come across disturbing incidents and crimes recorded on camera. This bystander, who records it, chooses to be a spectator rather than someone who proactively intervenes and helps the person in distress. This is precisely what A Billion Eyes aims to address.

“The theme of A Billion Eyes is based on the concept that ‘it takes all of us’. Often, men or women who want to help find themselves at a loss in such situations due to lack of knowledge. Hence, this campaign will address the importance of bystander intervention and need for citizens to understand and to help actively and safely in such situations,” said a press note at the event.

The campaign was launched to an audience of about 60 people who had gathered in the auditorium at the Police Commissioner’s office in Bengaluru. The program was moderated by Revathy Ashok, Managing Trustee of BPAC and Chitra Talwar, Director of B.Safe, an initiative by BPAC on women’s safety.

The panel of speakers included Commissioner of Bengaluru police Suneel Kumar, BMTC chairperson Nagaraju Yadav, Ashok Pamidi of NASSCOM, Bharathi Shankar, chairperson of Karnataka State Women's Development Corporation and Mailni Krishnamoorthy, Additional Commissioner of Police.

The idea behind the campaign is to promote ‘prevention’ over ‘reaction’, by promoting Bengaluru City Police’s preventive and redressal tools – Namma 100 and Suraksha App.

The campaign to popularise these tools will be achieved in two phases. The first phase will consist of an awareness campaign and the second one will involve community engagement at the ward level.

The second phase, explained Chitra through a presentation, is where BPAC with the help of its BCLIP leaders, will adopt 10 wards in Bengaluru. In the following 6-10 months, they will attempt to make them into model wards where not only the people are familiarised with the tools, but public places are also made safe by ensuring streetlights, CCTV cameras and so on.

The selection of the wards, Chitra said, was based on a safety audit report compiled by BPAC and Safetipin, a social enterprise providing technology solutions to make cities safer. This report, also submitted to the Commissioner, grades Bengaluru’s wards on nine safety parameters like footpaths, lighting, visibility etc.

Sean Kelly, Australian Consul General for South India, who was also present at the event, launched the Campaign website. He also expressed his strong appreciation for this campaign, and the need to keep these efforts towards women’s safety consistent.

The other speakers at the event spoke about various other issues which will ensure safety and encourage bystander intervention such as awareness, change in perception, better infrastructure and so on.  

Awareness and mindset

Giving the example of Infosys techie Swathi who was brutally murdered in broad daylight at a busy railway station in Chennai in June 2016, Revathy said that it was important for us to understand what we can do as bystanders. “Let us not feel that we cannot make a difference,” she said.

Revathy said BPAC had tested the Bengaluru police’s tools, and had found them to be quite effective. The problem, she said, was that people were not aware of them.

Commissioner of police Suneel Kumar meanwhile claimed that Bengaluru was safe for women but we need to make it safer. Quoting Gandhi, he also said that ‘Ram Rajya’ or an ideal state could only be achieved when women are safe and respected.

Suneel also emphasised on the need for people to not restrict their girl children or the women in their family from studying, from venturing out and so on.

“There are other inconveniences like infrastructural deficiencies and perceptions about women. Perceptions will need time to change, but families need to start encouraging equality, not favour boys over girls. Hopefully, one day women won’t have to face any restrictions anywhere,” he said.

Confidence building

Additional Commissioner of Police, Malini, had some of the most perceptive insights into the matter. “Apps are just tools which allow people to access existing facilities better. A billion eyes are already there, but it’s the mind that should be able to see,” she said.

To build confidence among citizens in the police, she talked about Namma 100, which she described as the one stop point of contact for any type of emergency.

“Earlier there were two problems. One, that people dialling 100 were not receiving a timely response or they weren’t getting someone who spoke their language. The second issue was there were different helpline numbers for different situations. Can we really remember these many?” she questioned.

Namma 100 therefore did away with all of this, Malini said. “It has also been outsourced – we have a shortage of staff which is no secret. Outsourcing has reduced response time in a crisis, to a call being now answered in a few seconds. We have also delinked the hoysalas from the police stations, and made them centrally monitored. Our aim ultimately is to ensure that the nearest hoysala can reach you within 15 minutes of a crisis call,” she said.

Safe intervention

Malini spoke about the hesitation bystanders often feel thinking that they will have to get tangled up in legal proceedings and investigations.

“But people don’t have to worry. We have the Good Samaritan law which will ensure that this doesn’t happen. And if you are still afraid to intervene, just dial Namma 100,” she said.

Karnataka became the first state to have the Good Samaritan law, which ensured that people who help those in distress, like accident victims, need not be embroiled in legal hassles. Read more about your rights as a good Samaritan here.

Another point emphasised by multiple speakers throughout the session was that safety needs to be an ongoing dialogue.

“This is only the beginning. There needs to be a continuity in effort. A billion eyes need to not just look, but see, too,” Malini said.  

Transport

BMTC director Nararaju assured that the BMTC was taking women’s safety quite seriously. Speaking about the importance of public transport in a city burdened with traffic, he said that he wanted to make BMTC the city’s lifeline.

He added that most of their new buses will have CCTV cameras and a panic button. “BMTC may be a government entity but I want to make it a people’s entity,” he said.

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