Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bitter truth for the youth – women and children’s safety is impossible in a society that eulogizes aggression!

Having lived in Delhi for over a decade, I have grown to love the city’s heritage, diversity and quality of talent. If there is one aspect that bogs me about this city, it is the fact that despite having one of the highest levels of per capita literacy and per capita income in India, Delhi remains among the most unsafe places for women not just in India but in any metro city in the world. This aspect coupled with the high incidence of road rage and child abuse, signifies something much deeper. Has aggression become a way of life in Delhi?
While it is great that the forest cover in our city has increased to almost 20% of the city’s land in the last decade (making the natural environment better), the irony seems to be that the city’s culture is turning into a jungle, quite literally. The unsaid rule clearly is that if one is physically stronger, the others must be subservient to his will. I often find the so-called elite and educated youth, who travel in big fancy cars and bikes, flouting traffic rules and if they are ever to be questioned, a brawl is almost certain.
I see children being employed in almost every mom and pop shop in Delhi and as domestic help in homes. They are denied education in the name of giving them a livelihood. It is these children that face abuse and violence. Yet I see very little conversation on these atrocities till extreme incidents occur.

Familiar sight in shops and homes?

How can women and children ever be safe in a society where aggression is a way of life? Holding the police and politicians accountable is the easier option but cannot be the panacea. There has to be change of mindset and behaviour. Aggression, whether at home or on the roads, must be denounced in every possible way. The change has to start with each one of us.
Are we ready to obey traffic rules and not to engage in any form of road rage either individually or as a group? Are we prepared to boycott any shop that employs children and oppose employing any child as domestic help? Are Delhi’s young ‘Daredevils’ ready to stand up for a woman when she objects to being stared at/abused on the road or while using public transport?
While it is heartening to see the youth pour on the streets to protest, that alone will not solve the endemic problem of a growing culture of aggression in Delhi.
For those of us who still do not feel the sense of responsibility and pain at the state of things, the most apt comment would be (quoting President Obama’s words) ‘Shame on us’.

For those of you who are wondering what this post has to do with public relations, I’d like to clarify that P.R. practitioners are as closely aligned to what happens in society as their counterparts in journalism. Anything that impacts society is as and more relevant for P.R. professionals. I’ve written about similar social issues in the past and one of them was titled Modern public relations owes its success to women leadership.