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Task force to scan women’s safety

Jan. 1: A task force headed by the Union home secretary will review women’s safety in Delhi every fortnight, the Centre announced today.

Formed following the bus rape protests, the 13-member panel will regularly evaluate the functioning of Delhi police and the state government and weigh suggestions made by MPs during debates on the matter.

Its members will include Delhi’s chief secretary, police commissioner, the special commissioners for traffic and law-and-order, and the Delhi women’s commission chairperson, the Union home ministry said.

On Friday, a Centre-states meeting will discuss legislative changes to prevent crimes against women and Dalits and “honour killings”. Some states have already begun moving, with Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa unfolding a women’s safety plan today. (See chart)

In Srinagar, the Omar Abdullah government said it was reviewing the state’s laws against sexual offences to make them more stringent. “We are inviting experts on criminal law and are seeking opinion from bar associations,” law minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said.

Friday’s Centre-states meeting was called following the nationwide outcry against the bus rape and recent attacks on Dalits in Tamil Nadu.

The meeting will discuss stricter punishment for all crimes against women, including dowry torture and inducement for sati, and attacks on Dalits. The states and Union territories will be told to also forward their recommendations to the J.S. Verma committee, which is considering how to increase punishment for rapists and speed up rape trials.

Sources, however, said that not much should be expected from the meeting since police reforms have been kept out of its agenda. Because of poor investigations, the national average conviction rate in rape cases is a dismal 27 per cent.

“The minimum the government could have done is to discuss the separation of investigation and law and order,” former Uttar Pradesh police chief Prakash Singh said.

On Friday morning, home minister Sushil Shinde will launch the pilot project for the Crime and Criminal Tracking and Networking System, which seeks to connect police stations with higher offices up to the state director-general’s and make FIR registration transparent.

Singh said the network was already being implemented and did not reflect the government’s commitment to police reforms.