Long considered an unsafe city for women, the capital may well be on its way to earning another ignominious title — a city equally unsafe for foreigners. According to the latest data available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), of the 486 crimes against foreigners reported across the country in 2014, 164 took place in Delhi, the highest among all the states and union territories.
Another damning figure is the number of crimes against foreign tourists; of the 384 cases in 2014, 135 were recorded in Delhi.
In January that year, a Danish woman was raped by nine persons, including three juveniles, near the New Delhi railway station in the heart of the city. The victim had asked them for directions, and they had allegedly taken her to a secluded location and raped her. While one of the six adult accused died in custody, the other five were found guilty. Last week, they were sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of their life.
Of the 17 cases of rape of foreign nationals reported that year, Delhi witnessed the maximum number of cases — 6.
The death of Congolese national Masonda Ketanda Olivier, who was beaten to death by three men in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj after a brawl over an auto-rickshaw in May, followed by a spate of attacks against African nationals, has once again raised the question of how safe, or not, the capital is for foreigners.
The murder of Olivier had prompted the envoys of several African nations to express concern about the safety of their citizens in India. While the Ministry of External Affairs had promised to address their concerns, Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma had directed district police heads to take requisite steps to ensure the safety of foreigners in the capital. A nodal officer had been appointed to address their grievances.
Barely three weeks after the murder of Olivier, Congolese national Bobo Neil was allegedly beaten up by three men during a robbery attempt in south Delhi’s Sunlight Colony.
Delhi Police sources, however, claimed that several steps have been taken to curb crimes against foreigners. They said police personnel have been ‘sensitised’ about how to deal with cases involving foreigners and a dedicated unit had been set up to deal with problems faced by tourists.
Here are some of the measures: Helpline for foreigners
The 2014 gangrape had prompted Delhi Police to set up a helpline — 8750871111 — to help out foreigners. But the number of calls received by the helpline has been dwindling. In the first year, 2014, it had received 60 calls, the next year it got 22 calls and till June 9 this year, it has received only seven calls.
A police official who has handled the helpline said most of the calls were about cases of theft, misbehaviour by autorickshaw drivers and disputes with landlords. Most of the callers were from countries in Asia and Africa, he said.
The official admitted that most foreigners in the city — visitors as well as those living here for some time — were unaware about the existence of such a helpline.
The helpline number is available on the Delhi Police website and at police stations across the capital. However, most guidebooks and travel booklets about the capital have no information on the helpline.
“Most of the foreigners still dial 100 when they are in trouble. Now, the Police Control Room has started transferring such calls to our helpline,” said the official.
Meet the Tourist Police
The Tourist Police is a dedicated unit of Delhi Police which has the task of ensuring the safety and well-being of the lakhs of tourists who visit the capital every year.
Three officials and a police van are deployed in 10 places with the maximum footfall of foreigners in the city — Humayun’s Tomb, India Gate, Palika Main Gate, Janpath Market, Rajghat, New Delhi railway station, Red Fort, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Qutub Minar. These 10 locations are also known as ‘Red Alert Points’, said Special Commissioner of Police, PCR, Sanjay Beniwal.
Tourist Police officials also undergo a 25-day training session with lessons on how to interact with foreign nationals.
An official posted with a police van at Janpath said they spend a considerable amount of time giving directions to lost tourists. “They ask for directions very often. Some tourists also face harassment by beggars and touts. We take action if required,” said the official.
He gave a list of items they had in the van to help out tourists — information booklets on tourist spots, maps of all 11 police districts, and fare charts of taxis and autorickshaws.
All emergency calls pertaining to foreign tourists are forwarded to the nearest Tourist Police van by the Police Control Room. According to Delhi Police sources, till June 9 this year, Tourist Police have resolved issues faced by 146 foreign tourists and 244 Indian tourists.
Emergency officer in police station
A police officer pointed out that while investigating a crime against a foreigner, communication with the victim was often a struggle for junior police officials like constables due to the language barrier. He added that each police station in Delhi has an ‘emergency officer’ — an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) or sub inspector (SI) — to address grievances of foreign nationals.
Personnel of Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, which reportedly has the highest number of foreign nationals in its jurisdiction, admitted that they often faced problems while trying to understand the complainant’s version of the incident. In such cases, they sought the help of ‘emergency officers’ and at times, even had to call the station house officer.