‘Yogi Didn’t Change Policemen, He Changed Policing’

Shruti Gupta, an independent Chartered Accountant in Lucknow, says initiatives like emergency response and pink booths have made life safer for women in UP

I am a Chartered Accountant and till about a few years ago, I was working with a private company in Lucknow. Three years ago, I started my own firm, along with my husband (also a CA) and feel good about taking that decision. What caused this transition and gave me the confidence to take the plunge is directly associated with the law and order situation of Uttar Pradesh in general and Lucknow in particular.

When I was an employee, my daily concern was to wrap up work in time and reach home before it was dark. Even though Lucknow is a cultured city, traveling late for a woman alone caused concerns. Since accounts is stream where, several times in a year, workload get heavy, it would be stressful. This affected work and family both.

I always thought it would be better to start one’s own independent business but everyone in the family and friends circles advised against us. For, it would mean dealing with unwanted elements, even paying up extortion money to avoid unpleasant incidents.

However, two years of Adityanath Yogi taking over as Chief Minister and we could see a change in the situation. Crime rates dropped and there was a marked improvement in the law and order, be it organised law-breakers or petty street incidents. I would say that CM Yogi didn’t change the police staff but he changed the policing.

One particular incident on a late evening during lockdown sealed my decision to start my own accounting services setup. On that day, despite the lockdown, an important work warranted our physical presence in the office. By the time our work was wrapped up, it was dark and no scope of finding a public or private vehicle to return home.

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We had heard of Yogi Govt initiative of emergency helpline 112 but were apprehensive about it, having seen how state services function in Uttar Pradesh. Yet, I took a chance and called the emergency response line.

Much to my surprise, a polite lady answered the call and patiently took down my details. I was told that help was on its way and the lady sub-inspector, Reena Choudhary, also gave her personal mobile number in case of any emergency. And lo, soon enough a PRV (Police Response Vehicle) van arrived at our office with female cops. I was dropped home with a request to avoid violating Covid curbs in future.

The same year, 24×7 Pink Police Booths, to assist women in distress emerged in the city. Such progressive steps were unimaginable in Uttar Pradesh. I needed no further persuasion to set up my own accounting firm. Having worked in the sector for three years, I could generate a respectable client base and, a few hiccups later, we soon reached a break-even point. From there, it was easy to turn corners and now I am happy to see a stable structure in place.

I sincerely want to thank the new dispensation in Lucknow to give the courage and confidence to a woman to start on her own. As I mentioned earlier, the change was not brought about by transferring of police personnel and placing one’s own people in place, as was the norm in earlier governments, but by changing the policing system. With a vigilant police presence in the city, there is no scope for miscreants. It is heartening to see women in khaki guarding the nook and corner of Lucknow on swift-moving pink scootys.

The stress and silly mistakes that came with it are now a thing of the past. I have a much relaxed work atmosphere and there is peace of mind. Parents and relatives, who were opposed to the idea of launching a business venture in UP, are happy and satisfied now. Discipline flows from the top and this is what we saw in last five years.

As told to Rajat Rai

‘Cab Ride Drove Me To Nervous Breakdown’

Nalini Sharma* thanked God every day after reaching home in the early hours. That prayer did not come from the sense of gratitude that a good life begets; it was the daily curtain on a scary cab ride home. I am a journalist, and I worked late hours at a large media office in Noida. For a woman, it couldn’t have got any worse. I’ve worked in the NCR for a decade, and have used every means of transport—DTC buses, autorickshaws, the shiny new Metro and the Ola-Uber cabs. The Net-based cab services seemed like the answer to every working woman’s dream when they started a few years ago. But the happiness didn’t last. First, the cabs. Most of the drivers were uncouth, some downright boorish. They would get this leering expression the moment they realized the fare was a lone woman. Not for me passing the time on my cellphone, or even a nap in the hour-long drive. I would be watchful all the way, making sure the driver was taking the right route, the fear climbing to my throat along dark or open stretches like the DND Flyway. Sometimes the drivers would reek of alcohol, and I’d have to cancel and book again, standing on the street outside my office all the time. And then there were the talkative ones, and their inevitable personal questions. Classics: Are you married? Do you do this every day? My break point came one night last December. Winter was settling in and the nights were getting foggy. I was on my way back home from work, catching snatches of U2 on the last stretch, one that I deemed safe. Just near the Delhi-Gurgaon border, my cab screeched to a halt in front of a dingy little building. Before I could say a word, the cabbie coarsely told me: “Madamji tax katwana haiBorder aa gaya (I have to pay the border tax).” It was 1.30 am. As I protested, he shut the door on me and walked away into the dark. I was in this dead cab, alone. All I could see outside was other cabs parked in disarray, drivers of sizes and sorts, smoking, chatting and staring at me like circling vultures. The road that was so familiar in the day appeared to be ghoulish place. All the streetlights were on the divider; I was in semi-shadow. The minutes passed and there was no sign of my cabbie. Fear took hold of me, but I shook it off and used the one device at my disposal: my phone. The first thing I did was call home and tell my husband about my predicament. I knew he would reach me in 20 minutes, but that was still far too long. In near panic by then, I dialled 100. I locked my cab from inside and got back on the phone with my husband. Another few long minutes passed before the cabbie returned with a business-as-usual air about him. A police van had reached the spot by then. A lengthy conversation ensued between them, the cabbie and me. My husband arrived in the meantime. I reached home at 2.30 am, shivering from the cold and the fright I had got. I am a journalist. But the experience of using cabs in the late hours has made me an ex-journalist till I can make my own travel arrangements. It’s just not safe otherwise, and even if it is, it never looks like that. (Identities of the writer and her workplace have been withheld on request by LokMarg)]]>