People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 40

October 12, 2008


AIDWA Condemns Delhi CM’s Insensitivity

Sudha Sundararaman

SEVERAL news channels have reported your statement in response to the murder of  Soumya Viswanathan in the early hours of October 1, 2008, on Nelson Mandela Marg  in Delhi.

We from the AIDWA express our deep sense of shock at your insensitive response to this outrageous incident of the murder of a young woman while she was returning from work.

Coming in the wake of Delhi having earned for itself the distinction of being the crime capital of India over the last several years, your comment reveals the lack of concern for the problem of rising crimes in the capital city, particularly the incidence of violence against women.

It may further help to put on record that the number of young girls/women employed in the media, IT sector etc. in Delhi has been increasing substantially over the last few years. In the face of growing unemployment, the income that these women bring often provides the wherewithal for the survival of their families. At the same time, these women who are equally committed to their work, are under pressure to adhere to high standards of performance in a highly competitive atmosphere. There are many employment sectors which now employ girls in night work, which compels them to travel during the early or late hours of the day. These young women are not out at night on an adventure spree, and their venturing out at night is far from being “adventurous” as your comment insinuates.

While often being primary breadwinners, they are also having to ‘choose’ these long hours of work despite the prevailing insecure conditions in which they have to commute, including at night, due to several compulsions. It is hidden from none that in the era of globalisation, the only jobs that are being made available to women involve long hours of work in unsafe conditions both at work and during travel. As chief minister, you are surely aware that the capital city offers no mode of public transport beyond 11.00 pm, leaving few options to informal cab arrangements which have been equally mired in unsavory incidents or, for those in a position to do so, driving oneself. It is by now well-known that the glitz and glamour of the exterior of the ‘new woman’ in the work place is a mask for all forms of exploitative relations wherein employers take no responsibility for the security of those employed. Feeble attempts to compel the corporate sector to take this responsibility have utterly failed and they get away with no commitments, except to their super-profits.

As chief minister, is it not your responsibility to ensure the physical safety and safe travel to the women of Delhi? Further, in the face of the total collapse of your government on this front, are women to further suffer the indignity of your insensitive comment?

To blame a victim of brutal violence as having invited trouble through her own actions is not merely a callous reaction, it also seeks to absolve the government and the employers of their responsibility for the safety of employees.

As a woman chief minister who we hope is well aware of the additional demands of a work atmosphere that is not always gender friendly, we would have expected a more sensitive response to the insecurity and vulnerable circumstances in which working women struggle to meet their professional commitments. The least that they expect is that the government moves in the direction of ensuring their physical security in order to facilitate the increasing responsibility they are shouldering in a fast-changing world.

In this context we urge you to firstly withdraw your ill-timed and totally uncalled for statements which smack more of the moral brigade than of a responsible woman chief minister of the capital city.

Secondly, we demand that your government address the vulnerabilities faced by this growing section of working women in a proactive manner.

We request you to seriously use your office to ensure the liability of employers and the corporate sector to guarantee the safety of workers, and specifically of working women so that the capital city becomes a secure place to live and work in.