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Stage set for women’s force in Delhi

New Delhi, Jan. 28: The Delhi cabinet today kick-started the process of setting up a women’s protection force, keeping a promise chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had made in the lead-up to last year’s elections.

The nod for the Mahila Suraksha Dal came days after the cabinet’s January 19-20 dharna that followed police refusal to follow a minister’s order in a dowry-torture case and the gang rape of a Danish tourist.

The cabinet gave its approval for forming a committee — headed by chief secretary S.K. Shrivastava — that would lay down the guidelines for the force.

The protection force, to be entirely funded by the Delhi government, will include retired army and paramilitary personnel and be assisted by the Delhi Home Guard but will have no policing powers. “The work of the Mahila Suraksha Dal will in no way clash with Delhi police. It will be more on the lines of private security guards posted in apartments,” a government spokesperson explained.

The committee has been told to work out the modalities and submit a report by February 15. It has also been asked to find out how many new courts will be required if trial in all cases involving heinous crimes against women has to be fast-tracked.

The protection force was part of the AAP manifesto for the Delhi elections. In his Republic Day address too, Kejriwal had said women’s security in Delhi had been compromised. “When a woman steps out of her home, her family is always anxious, they are worried whether she will come back alive or not,” he had said.

One of the issues the chief minister had raised at his dharna was alleged police inaction in a dowry case. Despite a complaint from minister Rakhi Birla, the police had failed to arrest the victim’s in-laws. On January 14, a Danish national had said she was gang-raped by a group of eight.

The cabinet also “informally” discussed Delhi’s Lokpal bill. According to sources, the government wants to clear the bill at a two-day special Assembly session starting February 9. As Delhi has not got full statehood, the bill has to get clearance from the Union home ministry first.

The draft legislation the Delhi government is mulling is more stringent than the Jan Lokpal Act, 2013, that Parliament has cleared. The biggest difference is that the Lokpal in Delhi can suspend any officer during investigation and can even attach his property. The Centre’s version does not have this provision.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister’s Twitter account had created a buzz. Kejriwal re-tweeted composer Vishal Dadlani’s tweet “Stuck between a moron and a murderer....what now, India!?”

Dadlani’s tweet came after Rahul Gandhi’s interview to Times Now. Till evening, Kejriwal had not deleted the tweet.