In all-round empowerment of women lies the relevance of Viksit Bharat

In all-round empowerment of women lies the relevance of Viksit Bharat

The ironic reality is that atrocities against women happen all over the country

Women are a key component of a socio-economic and political realm as they play a crucial role in every act of transformation. Healthy, educated and respected women are considered a must for chasing bigger socio-economic goals. Their all-round empowerment is, in fact, a precursor to the idea of Viksit Bharat, that is, an India with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $ 30 trillion by 2047. Just imagine the pace at which India has to progress in terms of annual growth in its GDP to be a developed nation in the next 23 years and the role women in general and those on margins have to play and the place they deserve in an inclusive Bharatvarsh.

It was, therefore, so traumatic to hear the gory tale of atrocities against women from Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas of West Bengal, which jolted the nation’s conscience. But then the ironic reality is atrocities against women are reported from all over the country. Most of the victims are from weaker sections of society. There can be many reasons behind their vulnerability but the most poignant among them arise out of the fact that they are financially weak, socially marginalized, educationally deprived and politically exploited. The men from such communities like STs, SCs and OBCs are also subject to exploitative conditions but the society in general does not want to discuss their plight and woes. The remedial measures never figure in such a setup. It is perhaps because of the ‘our problems’ and ‘their problems’ culture that we don’t want to raise a collective voice against such harassment, discrimination and exclusion against the poor women.

It is certainly an unfortunate situation but then who cares! Empowerment of Indian women from the weaker sections has always been a facade in our country for which one cannot blame any particular government or party. It is our collective failure but no one wants to come forward to own up critical lapses in combating atrocities against women by initiating corrective measures. The effectiveness of stringent laws and speedy trials to punish the perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape are in the public domain. The conviction rate is dismal across States and Union Territories, barring a few exceptions. From the agonizing days of Nirbhaya movement to till date, there has hardly been any change in our national outlook towards the most debilitating act of crime, except shedding crocodile tears, expressing remorse and dismay.

It is time to change ourselves. We have to rise to the occasion by setting aside personal biases and prejudices to make sure that Viksit Bharat guarantees a safe and inclusive environment to the country’s women irrespective of their caste, religion, economic status and the region they hail from. We should have a zero tolerance in matters of atrocities against women. However, this will be possible only when all social, economic, political, judicial, civil and administrative stakeholders reiterate their resolve to empower them. People from the corporate world should come forward to bear the educational costs of girls from poor families and extend gainful employment opportunities to their parents. The civil administration should go the extra mile in ensuring that they reap the benefits of welfare schemes meant for them.

NGOs and civil society should create awareness among women on how to save themselves from any act of brutalities and discrimination. Similarly, police should be proactive in thwarting crimes against women. Lawyers should form a panel in every court to fight cases of women atrocities free of cost. The judges should go for more sittings to hear such cases. Political parties and their leaders should give a clarion call to their workers to strive for the safety and security of women.

At present, the situation is quite troubling. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in its 2022 annual report, presents a harrowing picture. A staggering 4,45,256 cases were registered in 2022. The rate of crimes against women per lakh population stood at 66.4 while charge sheeting in such cases was logged at 75.8. With 14,247 cases of atrocities against women in 2022, Delhi was the worst in the country. In absolute numbers, Uttar Pradesh (65,743) registered the maximum FIRs, followed by Maharashtra (45,331), Rajasthan (45,058), West Bengal (34,738) and Madhya Pradesh (32,765). These five states together accounted for 50.2 per cent of the total cases lodged last year. In 2021 and 2020, Uttar Pradesh registered 56,083 and 49,385 cases in this category followed by Rajasthan (40,738 and 34,535), Maharashtra (39,526 and 31,954), West Bengal (35,884 and 36,439) and Madhya Pradesh (30,673 and 25,640). Around 12 States and UTs recorded crime rates higher than the national average of 66.4. Delhi topped the list at 144.4 followed by Haryana (118.7), Telangana (117), Rajasthan (115.1), Odisha (103), Andhra Pradesh (96.2), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (93.7), Kerala (82), Assam (81), Madhya Pradesh (78.8), Uttarakhand (77), Maharashtra (75.1), and West Bengal (71.8).

In a note of caution, the NCRB said that “the primary presumption that the upward swing in police data indicates an increase in crime and thus is a reflection of the ineffectiveness of the police is fallacious. ‘Rise in crime’ and ‘increase in registration of crime by police’ are clearly two different things, a fact which requires better understanding. Thus, an oft-repeated expectation from certain quarters that an effective police administration will be able to keep the crime figures low is misplaced…Increase in crime numbers in a state police data may in fact be on account of certain citizen-centric police initiatives, like launching of e-FIR facility or women helpdesks…The increase or decrease in crime numbers, however, does call for a professional investigation of underlying factors pertaining to the local communities to suitably address the pertinent issues.”

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