Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh travelled incognito on a bus from Dhaula Kuan to Chattarpur. He tells Gyan Varma that he now agrees with the people that they feel unsafe on Delhi roads.
The recent gang rape of a young girl in Delhi has left the people of the entire nation shocked. What was your first reaction when you heard about the incident?
The recent incident is one of the most horrific and barbaric cases that I have ever heard of. It was highly upsetting, and it left me at a loss of words. Fortunately, the victim was quickly taken to the hospital, and we also managed to apprehend all the accused. However, the incident has left us to ponder on the lapses in the system, how we can fix those and prevent any such situation to occur again.
Many students and citizens of Delhi, including Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, are upset with the role of the police. They have also demanded the resignation of Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar. Did the Central government ever consider that Kumar should step down?
Speaking on the floor of the House, my senior minister said anybody in the police department found guilty of laxity would face strict punishment. There is already an inquiry commission to look into the shortcomings, if any. We will ascertain that any policeman – no matter how high in the hierarchical order – faces the repercussion of his carelessness. In fact, we have already taken action against a few police personnel. If more people are found guilty of dereliction of duty in the report, stringent action will be taken against them.
Every year, Delhi reports more than 500 cases of rape and sexual assault. It is, quite unfortunately, called “the rape capital of India”.
Rape and sexual offences against women are on the rise in the whole country. In fact, a meeting of chief secretaries and director generals of police was called by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday (January 4) to discuss the prevention of crimes against women, scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). The meeting was called by the home minister. This issue is not restricted to Delhi; it concerns all women living in this country. Day in and day out, we hear about offences of harassment and exploitation against women, SCs/STs or other vulnerable sections of society.
Is the Central government considering death penalties for the accused? Several sections of students, activists and political parties are also demanding a severe punishment such as castration...
In this emotional period, a lot of people have asked for the accused to be hanged. But this is no longer a rape case only; it is a murder case, too. Hence, the demand for strict punishment, or the rarest of the rare action will be evident. But, to keep things in perspective, I must say I have met several women organisations and they have given me valid reasons for rape cases to not have capital punishment.
This is not the first rape case in the capital. A few years ago, a student was dragged inside a moving car and raped. That case was never solved. What is so different in the recent case that has made the people come out of their homes and protest on the streets?
The violence and brutality involved in this case disturbed the people, and struck a chord with them. That led to an emotional upheaval — and I think it is a good thing. It has fast-tracked all kinds of decisions related to women’s safety and security.
The capital saw huge mass protests — but without any political party leading the agitation. Do you think the people voluntarily protesting on the streets marks the beginning of a new phenomenon? How will the government counter this in future?
I believe it is a good and positive trend. Educated people in cities, mostly young, are taking out time to address important issues. But this has not happened for the first time. We have seen several agitations in which the youth of the country stepped out and took to the streets. A vibrant democracy needs younger, educated children participating in the development of the country. They are making the masses aware of the shortcomings and steps that need to be taken. We reached out to a lot of delegations, and we have got a lot of inputs from the people taking part in the demonstrations. We were already enacting a lot of laws. Now we would include their suggestions.
According to Delhi chief minister, of the 80,000 police personnel in Delhi, a large number is deployed for VIP (very important person) security. Is there a plan to change this?
I think the people are not completely aware of the situation. I can understand that security is an issue, and the people feel that many politicians do not require as many personnel as given. But there is a special division within the Delhi police for security. I am not trying to defend any kind of a situation but, even if we look at deployment, the police are deployed in every establishment. We continue to review the deployment but, we must remember, there were individuals whose security was scaled down and they had to lose their life. We don’t want to be responsible for that kind of a situation.
The government has constituted three committees to look into the different aspects of reducing crimes against women. But why doesn’t the government agree to call for an all-party meeting, or a special session of Parliament? Do you think that changes in the law will be possible during the Budget session?
The country demanded that a law be made immediately, and commissions and committees be formed. The three-member committee of justice J S Verma is committed to giving its report within a month. Parliament’s function basically is to make laws. Justice Verma’s recommendations will cover enhancement of punishments of sexual offenders and people involved in crimes against women. We will then look forward to implement those recommendations and pass a law in Parliament. We will speak to all political parties. My senior minister has already written to all political leaders to give their suggestions to the Justice Verma Committee.
Could you share your experience of your bus ride from Dhaula Kuan to Chattarpur?
I travelled incognito on a bus from Dhaula Kuan to Chattarpur. And now I completely agree with the people that they feel unsafe on Delhi roads. The police need to increase patrolling. They need to increase beat constables in all areas. I will also advice all senior policemen to travel in these buses because that will help them relate to the problems of the common people.