(This poster declares in Hindi, “Beware! You are under scrutiny by a camera…)
While our national army basks in the glory of their recent ‘surgical strikes’ on the terrorist camps in Pakistan, a foreign country, our local Police allows petty criminals to go scot free. Crimes like pick-pocketing and snatching of handbags, jewellery, and electronic items such as mobile phones and laptops are considered far too trivial, not even worth the paper used to print their FIRs on! You need to be murdered or raped or both to be taken seriously by the police and still no action is taken against the criminals till the Media raises its voice.
On 9 October 2016, my black purse was snatched away by a woman in a Durga Puja Pandal. I informed the Police immediately. While I described the incident to their senior officer, the junior constables smiled gleefully and said, “Madam, you were well aware that you were in a public gathering where all kinds of people come. You should have been careful. The CCTV cameras we have got here are all fitted outside, not inside where the crime happened. So we can’t do anything about this.”
I received a copy of the FIR through email the next day. Two days later, I submitted to them my mobile phone’s IMEI number. But nothing happened after that, so I had no option left but to just dismiss it from my mind as a bad dream and move on.
To be fair to the Police, obtaining an FIR is now no longer a painful exercise that it used to be in the past. But their efficiency, I am sorry to say, appears to be on paper only. Everything else is as it was and continues to be, inefficient and corrupt.
Dear Prime Minister, Chief Minister, MLAs, Ministers, Delhi Government, and everyone else concerned, are you listening? What are those CCTV cameras meant for? To act as mere scarecrows?
A nation’s law and order situation can be gauged by the existence of exclusive ‘women’s-only’ compartments in trains. When a country creates reserved spaces for women in its public spaces including trains, it indicates its empathy and sincerity towards ensuring safety of women. But it is also a symptom of its inability to provide 100% security to half of its population and a toothless judicial system.
Take Delhi as an example. Delhi Metro began running its classy, air-conditioned trains in 2002 with general compartments. Four years later, in 2006, DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) was forced to reserve one compartment exclusively in all metro trains at all times when it became clear that the twin problems of groping and women’s molestation were so rampant that they could not be controlled through punitive action alone. Ever since then, Delhi Metro has turned into the safest and the most civilized space in Delhi. Women can travel in other compartments too in these trains, but men can’t travel in the ladies-only compartments. This rule is implemented very strictly and has been made a legal offense.
During Commonwealth Games in 2014, I got the chance to interact with a European woman in a Delhi Metro train. She was amused to find so many woman gathered together at one place. “Very unusual in my country,” she remarked.
Countries like Israel, Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia, and UAE also have ladies-only compartments in their trains. But Singapore, which is famous for its exemplary standards in discipline, cleanliness, and orderliness in public spaces, has no ladies-only compartment in its MRT!
This proves what I am trying to say through this article, which is, that women-only spaces are needed only when law and order situation is not under control.
Recently, a foolish pigeon king borrowed the human concept of territorial integrity and tried to implement it among his fellow pigeons. But before turning it into a law, a discussion with the Elders was necessary.
The meeting soon turned into a violent fight and Police had to be called.
One of the first people to lose their lives was Jo Cox.
The matter is on hold at present. Let’s see what the future brings…
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital (DDUH), Hari Nagar, Delhi
There is a government hospital in Delhi, the capital city of India, where all patients are prisoners; some live in a real prison, the Tihar Jail, and the rest live in emotional jails created by their illnesses. But this is where the similarity ends.
The Tihar prisoners don’t have to wait in queues as the Police constables accompanying them just barge in wherever required, handcuffs and all. It’s probably one of those few places where law breakers and law keepers walk hand-in-hand!
This hospital was established in 1970 and gets its name from the famous Indian philosopher and political activist Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. From 50 beds, it has now grown to a 500-bedded hospital with a 24 hours’ open Casualty.
I have a deep, emotional connection with this hospital. It began about 25 years ago, around 1991, when I was a Medical Rep. in a pharmaceutical company and a visit to DDU hospital used to be a part of my monthly tour plan. I was a young, naïve, unmarried girl in my early 20s at that time.
During one of those visits, while I was coming down a crowded staircase, I ran into a handcuffed prisoner tied to a constable. Quite unexpectedly, the prisoner took out a letter from his pocket and handed it over to me. Hurriedly, he said, “Madam, isko please post kar dena (Madam, please post it for me). Without waiting for any reply from me, he turned around and kept walking. A few seconds later, he dissolved within the suffering mass of thronging humanity inside the hospital’s premises. For several seconds, I remained frozen and kept on holding the letter in my hand. As soon as I recovered, I went to the post office and got it posted.
It was the Gynaecology OPD that I always dreaded the most, but I couldn’t avoid it as it was a vital part of my tour plan. I still remember that incident when I came across a woman lying in a pool of blood on the floor right outside the corridors. She was having a miscarriage while the world around her walked by in callous disregard…Something like this would probably not happen now.
Compared to other OPDs, Gynae. OPD was always the most crowded and getting undivided attention from the doctors used to be very difficult. I observed that they subjected every patient to an internal exam. The cries of pain that sneaked out through the curtains while I waited always made me cringe inside. They gave me the first hint of the gruesomeness of becoming pregnant and having a baby. I wonder why they don’t invent less humiliating and traumatic techniques of physical examination.
Once I heard a Gynae. doctor euphemistically advising a patient, “Yeh dawai roz lena aur apne pati se kuch din mat milna.” Translated into English, this means, “Take this medicine daily and don’t meet your husband for a few days…”
And then one day, while I was distributing free samples of my company’s anti-inflammatory enzyme and antibiotics to a group of Casualty doctors in DDU, a severely wounded prisoner was admitted. All the doctors and nurses on duty rushed to attend to him. Once he was seated on the bed, he coughed out blood. A few seconds later, some blackish-brown solid things popped out of his mouth and fell on the bed. It was obvious that he was brutally beaten. Some of his internal organs had got dismantled and were expelled. He still had his handcuffs on him. It was a horrible sight and I just couldn’t bear to watch it any longer. I left in haste and prayed that I never have to see anything like this again in my entire life.
Many years later, around 1999, I came to this hospital’s Emergency as a terrified mother with a badly injured and profusely bleeding child. I was pleasantly surprised to find the staff so prompt and efficient. By then I had already joined a different profession and I hardly knew anyone in the hospital. It is an open secret that to get best possible treatment in a government hospital in India, you need to have good ‘connections’ and I was happy to be proved wrong this time.
My most recent visit to DDUH was this month (May 2016). Not only was I treated well, I also found a lot of improvement in several areas. But there is still a long way to go. ACs have been installed in the OPDs, but only those in the Paediatrics department were working. Wooden benches have been replaced by stainless chairs which are more comfortable. Toilets were horrible and running water was not available. At several windows, patients were waiting patiently in long queues. The only place where some amount of creativity and thought seemed to have been applied was the Paediatrics OPD.
It’s rather tragic that so many crores of rupees disappear annually in scams, while the general public battles it out in these poorly managed government hospitals. Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and Health Minister Mr. Satyender Jain, are you listening?
Here are some latest photographs, good, bad, and ugly. Ugly ones are in the end…
Good things first…
Pics from Paediatrics OPD (the only OPD where ACs were working…)
Now the Bad Ones…The grim realities…
Comfortable chairs, but long wait, non-functioning ACs, overcrowding, overworked staff
Ugly ones…Brace yourself for what will see now…
Dirty toilets, no running water, no housekeeping staff…(A suggestion to Mr. Satyender Jain: Hand over the toilets to Sulabh. They manage toilets very well).
Sometimes I wonder why people take the trouble of dropping everything to go mountain climbing. Isn’t life itself a big mountain?
Completely oblivious and far removed from the debates raging all over the country these days over nationalism, reservations, and hidden agendas of RSS and BJP, Omwati, a middle-aged, semi-literate woman stands everyday near the Uttam Nagar red light with a cart-load of vegetables and fruits along with hundreds of other sellers; from morning till evening, they keep calling out and shouting to attract the attention of the passersby and coax them to buy from them.
Working in an open place like Uttam Nagar has a lot of risks, but she still carries on. The profit she earns by selling fruits and vegetables helps her in supporting her family. Her courage, her quiet determination, and the dignity with which she carries herself are really admirable.
She hails from UP and came to Delhi as a young bride. Her husband was an auto-rickshaw driver during those blissful early years. But a couple of years later, he fell sick, according to her. He doesn’t work anymore and stays at home. She has been selling fruits and vegetables at Uttam Nagar for almost 25 years now. They live in Budh Vihar, Rohini, and have 3 sons; the eldest is doing an ITI course, the middle one is doing a computer course, and the youngest one is in 10th class in school. She is the only earning member of her family.
Her day begins with a visit to Azadpur Mandi early in the morning. She buys her wares from there and brings them to Uttam Nagar in an auto-rickshaw. She reaches here around 12 PM and begins work right away. The cart that she uses is her own now along with the weighing machine. Maximum sales happen in the evening when most of the passersby are on their way home after work. She leaves for the day in the night, around 9:30 PM, and goes home in a DTC bus.
Perhaps you will ask what makes Omwati special, apart from being a female seller in a male-dominated market. I have been purchasing my fruits and veggies from this market for the last 16 years and I find Omwati always so refreshingly different from the other loud and aggressive sellers. She is soft-spoken and well-mannered and treats her regular customers with great respect. The rates she quotes are generally the most reasonable and when things are not of good quality, she is pretty honest about it. It’s really amazing to see that though she is semi-literate, she knows by instinct that the most important thing in marketing is that customers will return to you only if you give them recognition and make them feel important.
Uttam Nagar red light junction is adjacent to both the Uttam Nagar East Metro Station and the Uttam Nagar bus terminal in West Delhi. Because of such a huge turnover of people and vehicles through this place, it provides a lot of opportunities to petty sellers like Omwati. Even the buyers love to buy from here because of the low prices, probably the most reasonable you can find in Delhi. But for the same reasons, this place remains in a perpetually chaotic state and continues to be a big nightmare for the Traffic Police. Road accidents are quite frequent.
Several attempts were made in the past by the Police to get rid of these petty sellers. They were, after all, illegally encroaching on public property and turning into a big nuisance with each one jostling for space and fighting with each other and, sometimes, with the customers as well. Nearly all of them keep their carts and sacks of goods here and some remain behind to keep a constant guard on them. But the long arm of law could not succeed and the market continues to survive.
This has a lot to do, I think, with the vested interests too. I have often heard these sellers grumble about the huge amount of money they are compelled to pay to be able to stand here and sell.
Not to forget, there’s vote bank politics also. No government likes to be perceived by the general public as a ruthless dictator. All the open spaces are being converted into malls and government earns huge taxes from them. Often one hears of scams with public money going into private pockets. Where then can the ordinary sellers with hand-to-mouth existence go to? We are a free, democratic country, after all. We do have a right to our free, open spaces, don’t we? We needn’t pay for everything we need to live – water, the air we breathe, land to stand on – these are God-gifted and everyone has a right to them.
Uttam Nagar market is, in fact, like shifting sands with a constantly changing law and order situation.
Sometimes the Police suddenly become hyperactive and extremely brutal. They come out with lathis and start raining blows on the gas lamps on the carts. I was a shocked witness to this scene once while buying a kilo of oranges. But I was more shocked when I saw that the sellers, without uttering a word of protest, just picked up the handles of their carts and immediately began making a hasty retreat. The money I was supposed to pay to that hapless seller for oranges on that ill-fated evening was already in my hands, thank God, and I thrust it into his desperate hands just before he ran away.
And sometimes, all of a sudden, the place is empty and desolate. Then a couple of days later, the carts return, this time with a vengeance, and in much greater numbers!
I asked Omwati the other day if she faced these problems. She told me that she does and in such situations, she just plays it safe and stays away from the traffic. And then in the night, like snakes, petty criminals, pimps, drunkards, and drug addicts also come out and move around, looking for a prey. Well, these are just occupational hazards that she shrugs off as unavoidable.
Wish you a better future ahead, Omwati, and I hope God makes your life easier in the coming years…