India’s Cry Wolf App?

By Deepika Jaitley
Area 14/8

‘Rape Capital’ Delhi, sprawling metropolis and epicenter of the Government of India, is also victim to elements of endemic sexual violence. Earlier this year an English local newspaper published statistics under the headline: Shame on Delhi Men. “The dazzling streets of Delhi hide a dark truth,” it said, publishing the results of a poll revealing that 66% of the capital’s women were molested between two and five times last year and that 70% of men “looked the other way” when it happened. What happens when they don’t was amply demonstrated earlier this year when a 55-year-old rickshaw driver in West Delhi was beaten to death for “defending his daughter’s modesty” from a group of drunks.

Cracking down on sexual predators, in what is the most dangerous city for women in India, hasn’t borne much fruit considering Delhi’s stereotypical policeman is a figure of legend, renowned for sloth, corruption, brutality and casual misogyny. To counter pandemic violence charities of all sorts have come to the fore one of which is Whypoll a local charity which has devised a smart phone app “Fight Back” that is to be launched in November this year. Whypoll will function as an SOS alert device — sending out a text message with a GPS location to up to five people, including police, and as a post on Facebook and Twitter. This app will be available to download from the Whypoll website for a small fee and will be supported by a range of smart phones such as Nokia and BlackBerry.

This project has received widespread attention and media coverage lauding this attempt to provide a platform where ‘women can remain anonymous yet the incident will still be recorded and reflected on a map on their website’ creating a tracking device of all sex offences that occur in the city, and securing areas that are most affected. Noble as this initiative is there are some glaring problems here that seem to have been over looked.

Delhi is one of the few states with a Poverty Index rating below India’s average 55%, it is 45% however the agglomerate of which resides in the peripheral slums where the crime rate incidentally is also highest. Chances that women targeted in these areas even own Smartphones are as unlikely as finding a Delhi Policeman who cares. Women who use public transport or have to walk to work are the ones most commonly victimized as well, to assume these women are wealthy and tech savvy enough to purchase Smartphones and the latest apps is going a bit too far.

However wealthier women living in posh localities, the ones getting chauffeured or who drive their own vehicles needn’t worry because they can probably buy their safety and that of other wealthier women like them through this app. This is not taking into consideration that these women are least likely to get raped anyway but oh well good for them.

There is a significant number of people who blindly support their charities and donate generously creating a large influx of money with almost no checks on feasibility and accountability of these Charity based organizations , Whypoll may have tried to reach out to the poor helpless women one of which gets raped every eighteen hours in the city. It’s just that if most of these victims cannot even afford this kind of help and will continue getting victimized because they can’t afford Smartphones.

Secondly this app is just asking to be misused and manipulated. The anonymity clause is too big a glitch in an already flawed design. If God forbid Whypoll’s home page is aspiring to become a database for rape occurrences in the city, the statistics will be skewed depending on the aggregation of smart phone users. Law enforcing authorities cannot use such flawed statistics, especially if the app can be used to simply ‘cry wolf’ without any repercussions or having someone to correct that. Prank alerts and malicious alerts could simply discredit the validity and genuineness of these alerts, completely defeating the purpose.

Good intentions aside, this app in my opinion will soon become redundant and it’s usage scant. Instead of a pseudo alarm system that requires you to have paid your Smartphone bill in advance, provisions for a concentrated crackdown must be made as soon as possible and the Government must get involved. Rooting out crime given the resources police has at its command, shouldn’t be that much of a problem if the federal government which rests its head in the same city decides to take interest in this issue. Reporting crimes, like this app plans to do, will not help as much as preventing them and rooting them out will.

India takes pride in being the tech-support call-centre and Silicone Valley of the world and portrays a pretty bejeweled face to those outside its borders. However hidden behind the thick layers of copious makeup and priceless jewels lies a forlorn India that cries for attention when countless women are abducted violated and thrown away everyday and there’s no one to hear their pleas. Initiatives geared towards the tech savvy may sound very clever and reinforce India’s neophilliac gadget craze but reality runs deeper and is grim. The endemic must be taken seriously and scoured head on by the Government without stopping to cheer and applaud NGOs who in their own capacity try and do their best in their own small way.


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