How Safe are our Social Spaces?
Respondents found Mumbai to be the safest megacity (defined as any city with more than 50 lakh people), where 9.27 pm was stated to be the safe hour to return.
One popular yardstick of measuring how safe is life in a place, is to find out by what time people prefer to return home. This also reflects the state of law and order specific to a place. Economic development and investment is linked to the law and order situation.
Lok Survey did a survey of popular perception of safety in cities across India by asking people “What is the latest time in the day that you feel safe returning home alone?”
Thirty six per cent respondents said they did not feel safe returning home alone after 7 pm. 22% of the respondents mentioned 8 pm as their time to feel safe for returning. 3% said 5 pm while 4.5% stated midnight or afterwards.
Among the states, Gujarat fared the best. Respondents in Gujarat said they felt safe till 9.27 pm while respondents in Punjab and Chhattisgarh put the best time to return at 6-30 pm. Let us be reminded that Chhattisgarh has been under the throes of Naxal violence while in case of Punjab, it is attributed to conservatism.
Urban & Rural Variation
It is obvious that people perceive greater safety in cities while rural areas have lesser safeguards. The average time for the cities in India for latest return was 8.31 pm while in rural areas it was put at 7.46 pm. Respondents found Mumbai to be the safest megacity (defined as any city with more than 50 lakh people) where 9.27 pm was stated to be the safe hour to return. Chennai stood second with 9.16 pm, followed by Kolkata at 8.46 pm while Delhi was found the most unsafe, at 8.16 pm, almost on par with small cities.
Why people perceive places as unsafe? The perceptions are largely the results of conflicts such as Maoist and Naxal violence. Unless the root causes are addressed to end such conflicts and sanity restored, the fear cannot be mitigated. Dark streets, lack of public transport, irregular colonies also instill fear. If urban infrastructure could be improved, the popular confidence too gets a boost and people are encouraged to carry out their chores as per their will rather than the extraneous factors. It is one reason why megacities endowed with good public infrastructure are liked by the people.
Sense of safety also depends upon ecological factors. Similarly, the gaps in the provision of basic law and order too cannot be delinked from the anxieties and aspirations of the ordinary citizens.
(Note : This is a summary of the Lok Survey by Centre for Study of India. For details log onto: http://indiaintransition.com/category/lok-surveys/)