Monthly Archives: January 2014
The pdf version of the January 2014 Campus Security Special Issue of Voices can be downloaded here
Whether one feels insecure about the future, about themselves, or of anything in particular, feeling insecure, it could be said, is a part and parcel of life. So, a statement to the effect that the denizens of this campus are feeling insecure will probably not raise any eyebrows. But the fact that the insecurity we refer to here, is of the campus being unsafe, makes this a cause for concern.
When, as part of a survey, Voices asked its readers whether they felt the campus was secure, nearly 30% of the respondents said, “No”. The people who participated in the survey only represent a little over one-tenth of the campus population. But, this survey was not limited to just students. Participants of the survey included faculty and staff as well. That 30% of this random sample of the campus populace, spanning all cadres, feels that the campus is not a secure place to be in, is a cause for alarm. This figure is even more startling when one takes into account that the campus of the Indian Institute of Science is enclosed and the various gates on its periphery are policed by the security guards employed by the campus.
The security which is in place on our campus has shown itself to be inadequate to the task of keeping the campus secure. Security guards at the hostels and departments are seen sleeping blissfully, or even leaving their posts unattended, thus transferring the responsibility of security to the students/residents themselves. Often, the security guards at a few of the gates to the institute allow people to enter or exit the campus unchallenged. Even if they do try to verify the identity of the person, they can be, more often than not, easily harassed into allowing one inside. Many areas of the campus are inadequately lit. In the rare event that any miscreants are given chase, if they are well versed with the campus layout, they find themselves with many avenues of escape. There are frequent reports of women facing harassment within the campus, particularly on the roads. The fraction of people who have been caught in this regard seems to be despairingly low. In the light of all this, the results thrown up by the survey are, perhaps, not entirely unexpected. But they can serve as a wakeup call for all of us.
Ensuring that the campus is secure is not a one way street, however. The onus of providing security to the campus lies with the administration, and the responsibility of ensuring that the campus is secure lies with the security. But we, who reside or work in the campus, also have a role to play. Often, crimes go unreported, and so, the perpetrators get away scot-free. We, at Voices, would like to urge our readers to report immediately to the authorities, any untoward incident that has happened to you or that you have witnessed. But the road doesn’t end there. Satisfy yourself that suitable action has been taken by following up with whoever you have complained to. If you feel the actions taken in response to your complaint are not satisfactory, you can approach one of the faculty to help remedy the situation. This issue of Voices gives you a list of faculty you can approach for help if you find yourself in such a situation. Only a concerted and continual effort by everyone, faculty, staff and students, can help expose any fallacies in the existing security system, help remedy them and speedily change the perception that the campus is not safe.
We hope that this issue of Voices, which exclusively addresses the current security situation on campus, will prove to be a first step in the right direction, in making the campus a more secure place to work/reside in.
K. Vijayanth Reddy (ECE/CeNSE)
Editor’s Note: The survey and the interviews featured in this issue were conducted by the Voices team in the months of September – November, 2013.
Prof P. Balaram [Director] email@example.com 22932337
Prof N. Balakrishnan [Associate Director] firstname.lastname@example.org 22932488
Prof. Anjali Karande [Faculty Advisor] email@example.com 22932306
Prof. L. Umanand [Hostel Warden] firstname.lastname@example.org 23600810 (Ext 233)
Prof. Dipshikha Chakravortty [Hostel Warden] email@example.com 22932842
Prof. Sandhya Visweswariah [Sexual Harassment Comm.] firstname.lastname@example.org 22932542
M. R. Chandrasekhar [Security] email@example.com 22932400,
Health Center 22932227
In the light of recent security breaches inside the campus, Voices conducted a survey to elicit the opinion of the campus community on the state of safety in the Institute.
We received a total of 252 responses. Considering the overall student strength, the number of participants does form a small fraction. However, we hope that those who have faced security related issues on campus or are most concerned about the state of safety in the campus got an opportunity to voice their opinion. The respondents included the entire gamut of campus dwellers ranging from students, project assistants, faculty and non-teaching staff to post-docs.
We present below a summary of the results of the survey. We believe that the results will enable the Institute administration to take cognizance of places or times that need immediate and permanent measures to improve the security, and we hope that these measures are implemented by the concerned authorities at the earliest.
1) You are a:
We observe that a sizable chunk of the respondents (~ 85%) are students. This is to be expected since the primary target audience for Voices is the student community.
2) What is your name?
This was an optional question to ensure the anonymity of those who wished to remain anonymous. However, we will reveal that of all those who decided to answer this question, no two people had the same name.
3) Do you feel the campus is safe in general?
As we mentioned earlier, the number of respondents form just a fraction of campus community. However, we believe that when 32% (80 votes out of 252) say that they do not feel that the campus is safe, it is time to believe that things could be better.
Of course, the recent events might have made their presence felt at the back of the minds of some of the voters and created a slight bias towards the ‘NO’ button.
4) Rate the following times of the day in terms of their safety, according to you, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 corresponds to most safe.
Safety on campus seems to go down along with the sun. Mornings and afternoons were deemed most safe and the safety rating dips down steadily as the day progresses further, with the time slot of 12 midnight to 6 am receiving an abysmal safety rating of 2.5 out of 5. The personal accounts by respondents also revealed that most of the incidents happened after evening hours. Clearly, we are one Batman short on campus.
5) Which of the following time slots do you use for commuting?
Clearly, there are researchers who prefer to work in the night (for various reasons). Although the number of people who commute in the night time is lower, 68 is still a sizable number and a safety rating of 2.5 out of 5 for the time slot of 12 midnight to 6 am should be deemed unsatisfactory.
6) Rate the following campus gates according to the leniency adopted in the security checking while entering the campus, in a scale of 1 to 5, (For example, vehicles are not stopped even if they do not have institute labels, pedestrians are not asked for ID cards, etc.), where, 1 corresponds to most ineffective security checking.
How many times have you entered the campus and wondered how easy it is for outsiders to utter the secret password “student” and enter? The results indicate that ATM Gate and the Maramma Temple Gate have strictest checking and the gate near A-mess and the gate near Kendriya Vidyalaya received the lowest score and are by a significant margin, the most lenient gates of the campus.
7) Which areas in the campus, according to you, need significant improvement in security measures with immediate effect?
We observe that the three primary areas of campus that seem to require a serious security beef-up are the road from the new Biological Sciences building to Faculty Club, the road from Centenary Visitors’ House to Janta Bazaar – both inevitably accessed by a large number of campus residents, and the Swimming Pool and nearby areas including Jubilee Garden. Accounts of personal incidents faced by some respondents confirm that these areas are not as safe as they should be.
8) Who would you contact in case of an unlikely security breach in the campus, directed towards you?
We see that apart from friends, the security establishment is the main “go-to person” for most of the students who face such issues on campus. In view of this, it is imperative that the security personnel employ as friendly and supportive an attitude as possible towards the student community.
9) Have you faced, or, do you know anyone who has faced untoward remarks or any form of eve-teasing within the campus?
It was pointed out that Question 1 showed an alarming trend with 32% (80 votes) answering that the campus is not safe. Question 9 should raise further concerns. A 36% percent of the respondents (91 votes) said that they have either faced or know someone who has faced untoward incidents within the campus.
10) What are the places in the campus where the street lighting needs to be improved with immediate effect?
We understand that it is impossible to ensure that every part of campus is well lit. However, it would do a world of good to see to it that the pathways that are frequently used by residents are sufficiently lit. Areas like the bicycle pathway behind JN Tata’s statue, motorists’ way from the new Biological Sciences building to Faculty Club and the road from Gymkhana to PD block received close to 130 votes each which is more than half of the total number of respondents (252). Clearly these roads are frequently used and a large majority of those who use the road feel that it could do with a bit more illumination.
11) Have you, or do you know anyone who has ever lodged an official complaint about any incident involving security breach in the campus? If yes, are you aware of any measures taken to address the complaint?
Of all the questions, this one threw up the most unexpected result. 76 people responded that they have or know someone who has filed an official complaint about any incident involving security breach in campus.
We expected that only those who answered in the affirmative for the first question would go on to answer the second question. However, there was no check in the survey and we found that the number of people who responded to the second question was greater than the number of people who answered in the affirmative for the first question. It is to be noted that only 28 people responded that they are aware of any measures taken to address the complaint. Again, not encouraging.
Q12. According to you, what would be the most effective measure to improve security in the campus?
211 votes (~ 83%) are in favour of strict checking of identity at the gates. If the administration is going to take this up, then Question 6 made it obvious which gates need attention. Only the ATM gate and Maramma Circle gate got a high rating on the efficiency with which checking is conducted and the gate near A-mess and KV gate fared most poorly with both of them receiving a rating below 2.
If statistics are not enough to convince the reader regarding the need for action, we have reproduced below some personal accounts by the survey respondents.
There was a field where one could anonymously mention any incident faced and the location where it occurred.
“I was on my way with my friends to mess in the night. Some mongers started chasing and passing comments. I have seen them quite a number of times near Faculty Club, supposedly people other than students staying inside campus.”
“A couple of times in the evenings between ~ 6 pm close to D-gate: have experienced unwelcome remarks”
“Near Janta Bazaar, @late night. There is always a gang of youth with a few bikes, standing near the Janta Bazaar. They do pass remarks at passing-by people.”
“1. About six months ago, some guys on two bikes shouted untoward remakes to a female colleague on the Janta Bazaar-Centenary Guest House road.
2. Last year, a group of construction workers passed comments at me near Fac. Club.”
“I have observed outsiders harassing institute community especially during dinner timings on the way from Centenary Visitors’ House gate to Janta Bazar. In fact, two of my batch mates (girls) were victims of these harassments. About a month back, a girl from 2013 batch was literally harassed physically around 5:00 pm near IPC department on the way to the subway joining main campus with the JN TATA Auditorium side; a motor cyclist took his bike near to the girl and an idiot sitting behind touched her and uttered bad remarks at her because of which, she was under shock for some time. Another major problematic place in the institute is the Faculty Club – please visit the place after 10 in the night, you will find so many drunken monkeys harassing students irrespective of gender.”
“I was changing in the swimming pool changing room when I saw a cell phone near the window. A photograph was taken as evidenced by a flash. By the time I ran out, the perpetrator had vanished. The security office was incredibly unhelpful. However, Savithri Ma’am and Siddhartha Sarma took immediate action and curtains were put up at the windows by the next day.”
The results clearly indicate that the campus is not as safe as some of us would like to believe. While it is unrealistic to expect that the entire campus be turned into a fortress, it is reasonable to expect that some action be taken to ensure that the security is beefed up significantly in the areas where security breaches have been reported frequently. The road from the new Biological Sciences building to the Faculty Club and that from Janta Bazaar to Centenary Visitors’ House feature prominently in the personal accounts. We understand that implementation of Draconian laws is not practical but clearly more than half of the respondents desire a decrease in the leniency with which people are allowed into the campus at various gates. We hope that this survey enables the administration to take cognizance of the views of campus community on the state of security on campus and come up with actions to address them.
1) On what basis are the security guards chosen?
Security is an outsourced activity. We have a very small number of security guards who are on the permanent rolls of the institute. But the security contracts are awarded on the same basis as all other outsourced contracts are awarded i.e., the requirement is projected and tendered, and different security agencies which are in the business of providing security manpower to both commercial and government establishments, provide their offers. There is a contracts committee and nowadays, all contracts are awarded on the basis of the lowest bidder who satisfies all the requirements. They will have to provide everyday a certain number of people and they will have to fulfil all the other conditions which the labour laws prescribe.
So are they not given any training by the institute or the institute doesn’t look into whether they are given any training by their organisations?
Certainly what happens is that these will be organisations which have a track record of having provided security to other organisations. In very much the same way that we do building contracts, if a contractor is to build a building, he should have built many buildings of comparable value or even higher value before he is eligible to be given a contract. Certainly, the institute cannot impart training to security personnel. They are already trained in whichever organisation they are.
2) What areas of the campus are not yet secure and the need to have security beefed up in your opinion?
This is a difficult question. I do not think it is possible to have the entire campus completely secure at all times. That would be an unrealistic expectation because there are large wooded areas, areas of the campus where, by and large nobody ever goes, and if somebody did go there, especially if they go there in the middle of the night, they would be going there with a certain amount of risk associated because certainly in those areas, there is nothing which says that there are no elements who should not be there, do not happen to be there, are not hiding there. This is a problem with all large campuses. But in the areas of the campus which are populated fairly densely, in those areas, I think security should be provided. Near the departments, near the residences, hostels, so forth. It is hard to provide security at all residential points on the campus. But if you live outside the campus, there’s only a sort of light security which may be there. What would be good is for the patrol car to go around regularly and for more patrolling to be done especially at night. It is one reason why the peripheral road of the Institute was constructed. The institute did not have that road at all, so no security vehicle could actually go around the entire periphery of the campus.
Peripheral road refers to?
The road beyond faculty residences which goes to Ramaiah is the peripheral road which goes all around [the campus]. Before that, there was nothing beyond the residences. All that activity like the centenary visitors’ house, the aerospace labs, on the far end, they all came only recently. That’s when that road was made. But still, there are large densely wooded areas over there. Certainly, I wouldn’t say that they are ideal places to go to.
3) Many students feel that the hostels are not conducive to safety because of the way they have been designed. What are your views on this?
I think many of our buildings have been designed in a much more open way now. Open buildings are nice buildings, they are airy, they are ventilated, they have good light. Unfortunately, when you do all that, you probably make ease of access for somebody with bad intentions, somewhat easier. The question of the upper floors in most of the hostels with an open balcony might be fine, but the lower floors like the ground floor, certainly an open balcony is inviting for someone who wants to come in, but the ground floors are already grilled.
Yes, but because of the level difference on two sides, the first floor is not that difficult to access.
Actually, now the thinking is that the first floor should also be grilled. It is possible always to go back and think that everything should have been done in a way different from the way it has been done. You usually become wise in hindsight. But I still think that the designs were nice, I think they were somewhat open, I think we should be able to ensure security even here by making access to the whole area difficult for people other than students. There is a wall to come around it which has not yet come, then you cannot enter it very easily. The way security is usually guaranteed is if you have only a single entry point and everybody is checked at entry. This usually does not happen in a large hostel like that, unless there is a wall around it completely. At the moment you can come in from any side. Once there is a wall around it, you can enter it only from one side. Those are the ways in which security will eventually be beefed up.
4) Are the digital accesses to the hostels or CCTV cameras being considered?
CCTV cameras are being considered. CCTV cameras, people think, are a deterrent but they are actually not, because most of the people who do these things don’t know anything about them. CCTVs are a deterrent only for the technologically savvy criminals. Such a person might figure out that he might be seen, but the kind of people who do this are not going to be deterred too much by CCTV cameras. The problem with CCTV cameras is that you will get information after the fact. If they don’t act as a deterrent, you may be able to catch people, doing things which they ought not to be doing. But I don’t know if they prevent anybody from doing anything. They act as a minor deterrent, if people are aware. As for digital access, such as swipe cards, I suppose it could work only if we have only one door. It will, to a great extent, I think, take away an element of freedom which people have always enjoyed. When it is taken away, there may be people who will now complain about it. As far as, I will tell you, administrations are concerned, it would be easiest to have a place with only a single point of entry, where everybody shows an identity card or they don’t enter. If they have left their identity cards behind somewhere, they don’t enter.
Is it difficult to implement?
I suspect it is difficult to implement. There has always been difficulty implementing discipline. At the simplest level, I can tell you, with respect to the checking identity cards when people come into the institute and not allowing vehicles which don’t have stickers to go past a point, it immediately leads to a backlash, and there are complaints.
Is the backlash from students?
From students, from everybody really. See, when you come back at night and the security doesn’t allow it, it is very easy to pick a quarrel. They are also boys in many ways, some young guys from Bihar and Orissa, who have been drafted in to the security service – this is the difficulty that you have at many of the gates, people comeback drunk. We had, one night, what I would say a drunk professor from another Institution living here who at the security gate threatened the security guard to call me in the middle of the night and demand that he be let into the institute.
Alumni come back – in fact I tell the alumni all the time that once you’ve got your degrees, you can give something to the institution; you can’t take anything from the institution and that includes all of you. Alumni are supposed to give to the Institution but all our alumni, they demand access to the swimming pool, they demand access to the grounds of the institute. It does become very difficult to impose discipline. This is why only gentle sort of procedures have been used [till now].
In principle, if the community wanted draconian discipline, there is no difficulty in imposing it. It can be imposed but then nobody should question anything. If tomorrow we say that no vehicle is to come out of the hostels because the roads are getting cluttered, you can jolly well walk, no bike, no two wheelers, nothing, only then will the number of unknown people wandering around here diminish. Anytime you are stopped and if you are asked to show your identity card, you should be able to do so. Then we also have a lot of families staying on the campus.
You can’t say that it is a badly designed campus because it was not designed, it just grew. It is a product of evolution as much as any biological organism, shaped by the environment and all the selective pressures of the surroundings operate upon it.
So, if one were to design an absolutely brand new campus, one would completely keep the academic areas and the residential areas separate. You would have the entrances to the academic areas separate from entrances to the residential areas. But that is not possible now. So I think, to some extent, one can only tighten watchfulness and security locally within the areas that need them.
Certainly the kind of incidents that have happened, I think sometimes one can also overreact to them looking for a global solution, whereas what you really need is a local solution to the specific problems of a building, or a hostel, etc. The problem in some other building somewhere else on the campus may be entirely different.
5) Many students also feel that the security staff are not sympathetic towards the students’ complaints and in many cases, are rude to them as well. What is your take on it?
You know sometimes, I’m sorry to say this, but politeness is not really a national characteristic, and in our societies, sometimes we have become used to being less than polite to people who are below us socially and economically. At times, there is also the backlash of people who aspire to a better life, sometimes being somewhat resentful also of people who they feel are doing very much better. So there are a lot of cultural tensions which are there between people of different levels.
The security staff may at times appear to be unsympathetic simply because they are uncomprehending. They don’t understand what is being said. They also pretty much don’t have a great sense of initiative because they are not totally in command. This is one of the problems of having contractual security. So I do not know of the specific instances which students have said, but if you go into each instance in detail, you may eventually find that it is like everything else which happens outside on the road. You know on the road, for example, people are not very polite to each other. Are they? They’re not. I think it is very difficult to say this because we have a large population of students, I don’t believe all the students will be as polite as one another. There is a large number of security staff, some of them will be polite, and some of them may not be polite.
There was a very interesting article in the newspaper on a group of auto rickshaw drivers who call themselves the ‘polite auto rickshaw drivers’, they’re carrying some signs, putting it so that the entire community of auto rickshaw drivers is not blamed for what some of them are doing. I am sure we might have some very good and helpful contractual security; it is hard for me to comment. If you see an impolite professor, it doesn’t mean that all the professors are impolite, but I’m sure there may be. I’m sure there are impolite students, are they? There must be, no? It will be roughly the same proportion statistically.
6) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
Well, the usual things are being done, things are being tightened up because we now know what happened in specific instances, and those things cannot happen again. There will be more visible security, and also very prompt action has been taken in taking the individual who committed the crime to punishment, so certainly the word is out that nothing will go unpunished, so that is actually one of the first steps in deterrents. But at the same time, we should prevent people from doing things rather than react afterwards. So I think the security, the lighting, the walls, all of that will come, the grills will also come. But what happens in all of this is that exactly the same thing cannot happen again, but that doesn’t mean something else cannot happen. There is no substitute for being, as a community, alert to a potential problem, and it should be pointed out if there is a potential problem, so that something can be done. We will need everybody’s cooperation.
If as a student I feel that this particular area should have better lighting, or if I find an area unsafe, what should I do?
Then you should tell.
There I have absolutely no problem, you can send a mail or meet people and tell. One of the persons to be told if it is in the area of the hostels is Prof. Umanand. The other person you can tell it to is any of the other wardens if you see them. You can also tell Prof. Balakrishnan or you can tell me. Because if you know the amount of time that we spend afterwards cleaning up… The one thing that both Prof. Balakrishnan and I find difficult to deal with is casual emails sent by somebody who doesn’t even bother to take the trouble of coming to see you. You know that something is there because then someone says that an area is badly lit and I’ll say where, and ask you to walk with me, then I can immediately see or I can send somebody to go and see it immediately – that kind of thing is better, i.e., you tell someone. You can actually tell any of the senior people that this is the problem and can you please look at it, then you know whom you have told it to. There’s no point in sending an email to the Registrar, there’s no point in writing it in the complaint book if you want it seriously to be tackled immediately, because the people who are there at that level looking at complaint books aren’t going to take you seriously. Now if you tell me there is a place which is very badly lit, somewhere where I feel that you ought not to go, I will tell you that, whereas if you show me a place which is badly lit which ought not to be badly lit…
For example this very road in front of your office, which is a pedestrian and bicycle only road, is very poorly lit.
Yes, this is a problem with the lights, I don’t know how many lights there are on that road. But in principle, that is very easy to fix, if one wants more lights there or one wants more security guys to be wandering around there, that’s easy enough to fix. But I’m not so sure, you know, I also go around. It is quite possible that I react much less. I walk around and I find that many other people who walk around complain a lot more than I do. But then, they haven’t had the experiences of spending much of their life outside campus.
The real world has nobody to complain to. So I think that one should look after one’s own surroundings to some extent a little bit and bring things to the attention of authorities. But yes, if the students want more light, say, on this road, then it could look like an illuminated football ground, if it makes people happy. Then, along will come another email telling me that you’re wasting power, from one of the energy conservers.
So are you suggesting that the campus is as safe as the outside?
I can’t say that because safety depends on how you measure it. If you look at the number of incidents, I don’t think the campus is any more unsafe than the outside or is probably slightly safer because access is restricted. Even when something happens, it is usually someone from within the campus.
The argument on who is within the campus is a different one. Even in the incidents that have happened, until somebody is caught, it is not possible for us to take a view on who it is, it could be anybody. This is the difficulty that we confront.
7) Whenever any complaint is made, how frequently are the police called in to investigate the matter? What criteria are employed to judge whether a complaint requires outside intervention?
We very rarely call the police to investigate because sometimes, in matters which involve students, we are reluctant, actually, to immediately call [the police], without doing an internal assessment of what the problem is. We have had cases where, in principle, the police should have been involved, but I think eventually by not involving the police we have been able to get everybody involved in the incident back on with their lives. As far as possible, we have always adopted a very cautious approach to involving the police except in cases of theft. Where there is theft from the department or theft from somewhere, yes, police is involved.
8) If the police is called in more frequently, do you think that would serve as a deterrent for these crimes?
I don’t think it’s wise to call the police in; there’s enough crime in the city and the police do not act as a deterrent. It would be naive to expect that would happen. And I think the frequency of calling the police should not be too much because if you call the police for every minor thing, then the level of police who will come in here will be lower and lower and lower because they are also overburdened.
So the seriousness of the complaint will be lost?
Yes, they are overburdened with so much. I think educated, highly privileged communities like what is there in the institute should also sometimes recognize the constraints under which, for example, our police force functions – there are few policemen, far more wrongdoers, teeming populations, disorganised cities. So they do have a lot of work and a local police station is not the most ideal place to go to and make small complaints. If it’s a major complaint, then yes. But in cases which have involved exclusively only students, we have somehow taken the view that we will not involve the police as far as possible.
1) How many security guards watch over the hostels and patrol the vicinity? What shifts do they have?
We have about 13 blocks, such as M block, N block, R block, S block, two major new hostels – one with 900 rooms, the other with 1000 rooms, K block, PD block, and others. So as of now, there are 57 guards along with the recently added 12 more guards; that is, we have 69 security guards posted just for the hostels. Each hostel has one security guard, round the clock, at the entrance. The new hostel blocks [Blocks 1 and 2, above A and B messes, respectively], have 5 guards per shift. That is, 15 guards and 3 supervisors are there. The new hostel blocks, that are the ladies’ hostel and the gents’ hostel, have 2 guards per hostel. Now they have added 2 more. So now it is 3 guards, round the clock, for each hostel block. So totally 69 guards are deployed just for the hostel blocks. I can provide you with the breakup charts also, if required.
2) What qualifications and training do the security guards employed by the institute come with?
Normally for the security guards that we employ through the agency, the minimum qualification we ask for is matriculation. Most of them are either matriculates or high school dropouts. They basically know Hindi because we have a very dominant group from Orissa deployed here. Many of them have been here for the last 4 to 5 years. They are continuing in the Institute service even though there is a change in the agency. About 60 to 70 people are continuing. They are very familiar with the people, students and also the nature of their duties. Since we have about 230 outsourced security guards here in the campus now, we largely depend on them only. At the same time we also have the attrition, about 5% to 10% in some months. However, just as there is attrition, there are also new guards who join. We have a process of training; in-house training. Everyday guards are made to assemble here. We call them for a roll call, brief them and send them to their posts. That is how it works.
What about security training, do they have any security training?
Yes, they are provided basic training at their office. After the training they get a certificate. They are deployed here, at IISc, once they produce the certificate, along with their bio data and a photograph. Once they are here, one of our officers will verify their antecedents and details. Then they put them on duty after asking some basic questions to see whether they are capable of performing the basic security duties.
3) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
As a permanent measure from the infrastructure side, a compound wall is being built on the periphery of the ladies’ hostel. The Director has been very specific and has ordered us to increase the number of security guards too. I’ll elaborate the measures we have taken. From the basement, there is a possibility of some miscreant trying to gain entry. There, we have posted one security guard. The girls who park their cycles make an approach through one of the entrances. Some of these entrances are also closed. The guards have been sensitised about the issue. Whoever comes has to be accompanied by one of the lady security guards present there. Alertness has also increased because we have increased patrolling at night. Unlike before, now one of the supervisors comes and checks whether the ladies guards are on duty. He will make a record of what time he has come and of everything that he has observed. So apart from two lady guards, we now have two male guards also patrolling the ladies hostel. The Director and Associate Director have become very particular now. They have planned to establish a new security control room and we are working on it. One supervisor from the main campus of the Institute is dedicated to the hostels alone. Also, for the night, the erstwhile complaint cell for maintenance office is going to be given to the security. So one security assistant, at the supervisor level, will be available even in the second shifts and night shifts, supervising only the hostels. This will strengthen the security in the area.
That is only with respect to the new girls’ hostel, what about the other girls’ hostels?
No! This man will look after all hostels. It is just that he will sit very close to the girls’ and boys’ hostel. We don’t want him to sit in the girls’ hostel because of the sensitive nature. So a room is given in the new hostel. It is easy for him [to reach any girls’ hostel] in 5 minutes from there. Also, since other girls’ hostels are nearby, he will go inspect there. He is a supervisor, so he need not stay at one place. He will go to every place once in an hour, supervise and then come back to his post.
Is there a helpline to call him?
2033 will be provided to us. 2033 which was earlier the hostel complaint cell will be converted to security. 2400, 2225 these are the numbers to first be called. [These are numbers for the security personnel on campus]. We are the first responders [on being contacted on these two numbers]. We operate 24/7. 2033 hasn’t been provided to us yet.
4) Whenever any complaint is made, how frequently are the police called in to investigate the matter?
Inside the campus, if there are minor and petty issues in the department or in the hostel, police are not called. Where there is a law and order issue, for example, a fight between people, even then, it is not necessary that we have to make a police complaint. For instance, say, two students fight each other. They then go for medical treatment to M.S. Ramaiah hospital. When they tell the cause of the injury that will then become a medico-legal case. So, like that, for any medical emergencies taken there, depending on the recording of the statement of the patient, the hospital sends details to the concerned police station for registration, whether it is suicide, or anything of that nature, injuries, etc. On our own, if we have to, we will make the complaint depending on the nature of the complaint, gravity of the complaint, while also keeping the authorities informed and obtaining their permissions in such cases. But in emergencies, yes, we seek the police help immediately.
5) Do you think that if the police are called in more frequently than they are now, the frequency of crimes would reduce?
Not really! But police patrolling has been intensified in the campus. Hoysala (Bangalore City Police’s mobile patrol) is also coming into the campus for patrolling. But they come mainly to the residential areas. In the hostel areas, it is not that much, it is minimum.
6) There are reports that people from outside park their cars inside campus, near M. S. Ramaiah hospital gate, for example.
No! It is not like that. There are questions similar to this that [we] are asked. It is not that doctors from M. S. Ramaiah come and park. Some of the cars you see parked near that gate which is very close to the M. S. Ramaiah hospital either belong to the Institute. Or take the example
of the CVH [Centenary Visitors’ House]. Somebody comes there, a friend [of someone staying in the CVH]. He will park there, go to the CVH, go out at night for, say, food, come back at the night, at say 10:30-11, and [drive away]. Sometimes, there is a possibility that some are truly outsiders [with no business within the campus]. If they come, we also note down their numbers. If it is an overstay parking, we note down the numbers and we penalize them. We have seen one or two such instances near the SID building; somebody coming through the gate, parking and then walking out. We have found out, after some time, that he is frequently coming at 11 everyday, parking and going out. We eventually found the owner of the car to be one IT company employee.
Otherwise on the campus, no. But we have seen the number of vehicles parked, even at night, has reduced after one broadcast mail which was sent telling the campus that they should keep us informed. Once in a while, we do find that some of the relatives or friends [of the people within the Institute] ask somebody to come and park here for two to three days when they are going out for the weekend or for such other things. If permission is there, we take care of that. We also give permission sometimes, if the case is genuine. If you are staying outside the campus, and you bring the car in and tell us that you will keep it for three to four days, we permit that.
1) What is your prime focus as the Faculty Adviser to the Students’ Council?
It is to help the students, any which way, to make their lives here comfortable – it could be academic and non-academic as well, but mostly academic, as far as possible. That is in the position as a Student Adviser. Since I am a Student Adviser, I get pulled into several committees which deal with student welfare. I have been on committees that dealt with hostels, messes, etc. But that is discontinued right now. My prime focus as of now is mostly to advise the students and thus to help them better their stay here.
2) How often do you receive complaints pertaining to eve-teasing, harassment, etc.?
Not too many. But then, of course, we are seven or eight other members in the committee, so I presume that each one of us is contacted, if that’s the word, for issues. So, may be, let’s say, from January to now, two people have come and complained about, if I can call it, ‘eve-teasing’ or anything that can be related to sexual harassment. Last year again, there were some three or four complaints.
3) When you receive the complaint, what actions do you take?
We work as a committee. I try not to work on complaints individually, unless it is just giving advice. I will give you an example. In the beginning of this year, one student from the institute community came to me saying that while she was walking towards the gate of the Centenary Guest House, there was one guy who followed her and stopped near her. She thought that he was asking for directions. Then this fellow said something inappropriate, which I do not want to repeat here. She was so shocked by that, that at first she did not know how to react. Then he started laughing because actually he just wanted to see the expressions on her face and got some kick out of it. But she had the presence of mind to go running and try to note his bike’s number. She shouted to the Security guard too to get his help in this. But neither of them could note the bike number. So when she came to me, we were trying to see how we can find this person. So then, I told her that she should immediately get in touch with Mr. Chandrasekhar, because this is really a security issue; and apparently, the Security Office did a lot. So that was the advice. Now, we didn’t know who the person was, whether the person was an insider or an outsider.
If it is anything to do with any student or if it is anybody from inside campus, anybody on the payroll or fellowship, then we actually have a committee for dealing with such complaints. In such cases, we ask the person to give the report in writing because it has to be authentic. Unless it is in writing, we cannot even act. Then of course, we call the persons, the aggrieved one as well as the person who has been accused, and we see whether we can resolve the issue ourselves. If we cannot, we go to the Director and other higher authorities. There have been cases where the guilty are given a suspension for six months or something like that. So usually, it is definitely through a committee, it is never a single person taking any action.
4) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
[When the security lapse occurred,] I was at home at that time, the first thing I did was ensure that the people who have to know about the issue were informed about it– the Director and the others, of course, already knew and they were already taking adequate measures. I was quite satisfied with what had taken place with respect to help from the institute.
After that, I wanted to know if the other people, like the wardens, knew about the security lapses. So immediately, I made a call to one of the wardens and I talked to her. Then she immediately went over there and tried to find out [if the security arrangements were proper]. I accompanied her to the hostel again, later. And, of course, we found a lot of problems there.
I am sure nobody anticipated such a thing would happen. I must say, I was extremely shocked! Really! I have been here for so many years and I never heard anything like this. So it was shocking. And I am sure the Director, the Associate Director; all of them were equally perturbed. So the first thing that had to done, which was easy to do, is see that that place is kept locked. I must tell you this that students have to see this as a responsibility on themselves. Because one of the major problems was the staircase. There is a door to that staircase which actually leads anybody right till the top without anybody even noticing that person. That door should be kept locked.
There is a security guard posted there. When I went there, and it was a surprise check, I did find that person. The two ladies who look after that hostel, they were also there. We spoke to them. So it appeared to be like things are in place. I sincerely hope this will continue. Now, that door, unfortunately, which should be kept locked, you can open it from inside. You do not need the key for that. But once you get out from that door, you should see that the door is closed. Now in fact, I’ve told the warden to please have a meeting with the girl students, because maybe some of them do not know this. Possible! So they should be informed. This is the only way. Girls have to protect themselves as well. So that is what I’ve [advised]. This happened just last week and I think it will be done.
Now as far as lighting and everything is concerned, I think they have taken care. Well, there are still some things that can be done of course, like there is a grill all along the Ground floor. But the first floor is very close! So anybody can get in. But because now there is good lighting, and there is patrolling and there is one person who is right at the entrance of that basement, it might help to a great, great extent.
That was hostel specific. What about campus in general?
Ok, campus in general: I must say, I haven’t received any complaint other than this incident and what had happened last year, which was a stupid incident – not a security thing
– it was a stupid behaviour of an outsider who should not have been here. But otherwise, I haven’t heard anything. Even the thefts – I am not the warden anymore, I was the warden several years ago – I used to hear complaints of thefts, etc. But usually all the thefts were done by people within. So, I haven’t heard anything that’s been from outside except that one case that I talked about – the Centenary Guest House one.
5) How safe do you feel women are on campus?
How safe? I thought women were very safe until that one incident, I must tell you that. I never thought such an incident [would happen]. I have spoken about this to several colleagues of mine. Everybody was equally shocked! We never thought such things could happen.
But of course I mean, one can sit and argue about this and why it is happening, etc., but I do not think that is the purpose right now. But I do not know now, frankly speaking! But by and large, yes [the campus is safe], by and large. I have never had to tell my students – I have many girl students – I have never had to tell them ‘be careful, do not go alone’. I never even thought I needed to tell them that! But yes, after this incident, I have called them and I have told them ‘please do not go [alone]’. Sometimes they tend to work late, and I’d say ‘please do not do that! If you do, see that there are at least not just two, but three or four of you who walk together’, because it’s a terrible thing! It is something that you’ll never forget the rest of your life!
But yes, until one month ago, I would have said [the campus is] very safe. I do not know [now].
We have had people who say “it is night, can you just come till the hostel?”, because the road is not well-lit. So the assumption is that the lab is a safe place, the hostel is a safe place, but the way in between may be slightly insecure. The recent security lapses seem to have turned everything on its head.
A: Absolutely! I have never heard anything negative in any of the labs till date. That much I can say. There have been, like I said, thefts. But most of the times the culprit was caught. Of course, I am glad that you are taking it very seriously. I believe people have to be made aware. If you are made aware, you will be alert. But honestly, like I said, I never even thought I should tell anybody to be alert! It was extremely safe. I have had students who really walk down without even a care in the world, walk down right from Biochemistry Department till their hostel which is quite far. But, I do not know. What do the students think about this?
We conducted a survey. Based on that, of around 250 odd responses we received, 80 said the campus is not safe, the remaining said it is.
80 said not safe? That’s nearly 30%! Which is a really large number!
Interview with the Chairperson of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee, Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah
1) What is your prime focus as the Chairperson of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee?
The focus can only be that we wish to ensure that everyone on campus feels safe and are not subject to any kind of sexual harassment at the workplace.
2) How frequently do you receive complaints pertaining to eve-teasing, harassment, etc.? When you receive a complaint, what actions do you take?
Not so frequently, and actions that are taken depend on the nature of the complaint. There are no generalizations one can provide except that all complaints are discussed in the committee and with the person who has been affected. Subsequent to this, we decide on a suitable course of action.
There may be more incidences that occur than we get to know about, because people do not always come forward to lodge a complaint. We urge people who have suffered any kind of harassment to contact any member of the Committee and register their complaint. If they do not come forward, and report to us, it makes it more difficult for us to help them.
3) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
In these matters, as soon as the incidents were reported to me in writing, I have forwarded details with my comments to the Director.
I have also written last week to the Students’ Council Representative to get an update, if any, on action having been taken, but till date have not had a reply from her. I am meeting with the Director on Wednesday to bring up these and other issues, which could hopefully lead to a faster implementation of corrective measures being taken in future.
(Editor’s Note: Reply as given on October 21, 2013)
4) How safe do you feel women are on campus?
I feel that there are indeed some concerns. I was aware of them when I was a Students’ Counsellor and am aware of current issues that have reached the Sexual Harassment Committee. As I have said earlier, I urge anyone who feels harassed in any way or other, by anyone at all, to come forward and register their concerns. All such complaints will be taken very seriously and all attempts will be made to ensure that women are able to carry out their work/duties on campus without any hindrance. We strongly believe that women have an important role to play in the doing and thinking of science and engineering in this Institute, and their roles cannot be reduced because they feel unsafe or harassed.
1) What is your prime focus as the Secretary (Women’s Affairs)?
When I started my term, my prime focus was twofold: to deal with cases I receive strongly and to provide the victim the support she needs, and also in general, to try to take steps to improve security in the campus and build up a networking platform where all lady students can interact. My focal areas still remain the same. Initially, I had met with the Chief Security Officer to understand the current system of security and was in the process of suggesting some improvements on the same. This still is the long-term plan and we (the members of the Women’s Welfare Committee and I) are working on it. The networking has already started in women’s groups and though initially, it was fueled by recent incidents of security breaches, I am hoping that the communities will remain active and vibrant as general interaction platforms.
2) How frequently do you receive complaints pertaining to eve-teasing, harassment, etc.? When you receive a complaint, what actions do you take?
I have received two complaints related to gender-related harassment so far. The approach I have taken for both the complaints is to first get the details of the incident and then follow-up with the security office regarding the actions being taken on the case. If any infrastructural measures (or any other measures like counseling, etc.) are required to ensure safety with respect to that particular case, the suggestions are then sent to other offices for execution. Typically, I have tried to get everything done within a week or two of receiving the complaint. Also, I maintain constant communication with the complainant so that she is informed of the steps being taken and her consent is taken before proceeding.
3) In the light of the recent security lapses, what measures are being taken to ensure that such lapses do not occur again?
As I said, specific cases have been dealt with specific measures. In case of the recent hostel breach, I met the warden and then we went to inspect the hostels, following which I had requested certain immediate measures to improve security in the hostels, NGH in particular. Now security in NGH has been beefed up somewhat (more security guards, basement door locked, lights around hostel put on) and the warden has informed me (and the other girls in the women’s group) that they are working on the other suggestions put forward by us (latches on common doors, biometric locks, etc.). I am following up the process to try and get the measures completed at the earliest.
4) How safe do you feel women are on campus?
The IISc campus is huge and the perceived safety of different areas varies. In my opinion, the gates of the campus are pretty porous and will not be much of a barrier if miscreants were to enter. Also, some areas are dimly lit, have low pedestrian traffic and as such are not provided with round-the clock security: these are all potential places where incidents of eve-teasing/harassment can take place. All in all, it is not that the campus falls in the extreme category of being totally unsafe; many of us have spent a substantial time here with flexible lab timings (returning late at night, etc.) without encountering any problems. However, objectively speaking, there is a lot of room for improvement in the general security level in the campus.
Over the years, time and again, incidents have happened which point towards the loopholes in the security system.
In order to inch closer to the ‘safe for women’ tag, more women should come forward to give feedback about the security measures in the ‘normal’ condition as well, not just when something untoward happens. For now, many girls have conveyed to me that a part of the ‘safety factor’ is individual driven, i.e. which way to return back to the hostel, what time, whether coming alone or with friends, keeping hostel balconies locked, etc. It would be optimal if one didn’t have to bother about these things when inside the institute.
The Indian Institute of Science can be described as being, without contest, the best research institute in this country, with, as an added bonus, enough facilities that one will not be disappointed. But, what use are these facilities if they cannot be used for relaxation and enjoyment?
The adage that men will be men seems to be true everywhere, especially when it pertains to the way women are perceived or treated. Even within our campus, which, from time to time, reveals itself to have a darker underbelly. Voices came to know of a female student, who, while inside the changing room at the swimming pool, noticed someone attempting to record her on a mobile phone from outside the window. The perpetrator of this despicable act managed to escape. What makes this incident all the more frightening is that this is not something that occurred outside the campus or near its periphery, but well within the walls of the campus, almost in the plum center. A place where we are even more susceptible to letting our guard down.
In the month of August, one evening, the aforementioned student, while inside the ladies’ changing room, heard the sound of footsteps from outside the window. She then noticed a hand holding a mobile phone from the top of the glass panes in the window. When she came out, the miscreant(s) had already escaped, going towards Jubilee Garden. However, she was concerned and courageous enough to file a written complaint with the Institute Security the next day.
When the Voices team came to know of the incident, two Voices members went to meet the Security Officer, Mr. M. R. Chandrasekhar, who informed us that the Security’s role would have to be limited since the Swimming Pool comes under the Gymkhana. The Voices members found out that unlike SAC or the Gymkhana, which has security guards during the hours when they are active, the Swimming Pool has no dedicated security guard. Only one guard is deployed to ensure security in the Nursery, Main Guest House and the Swimming pool together, on a patrolling basis. The Voices members were also told that an additional security guard for 8 hours dedicated only to the Swimming Pool may cost the institute thirteen thousand rupees, and the decision of such deployment has to be taken only by the higher administrative authorities.
What was more startling was the fact that according to the Security Officer, about 6 months ago, an exactly similar incident was reported and an oral complaint was lodged. The Gymkhana had, at that time, installed tinted glass panes to half the height of the window, and cloth curtains, which were no concrete measures by any means. When one of the Security Supervisors took the Voices members to the swimming pool, we found that the windows to the changing rooms and the toilets are easily accessible from the main road in front of the Swimming Pool, and if, by chance, the curtains got displaced, it is not difficult to reach beyond the tinted glass-panes in the windows from a raised platform from outside, where only a mesh exists. Very recently, in some windows, the Swimming Pool maintenance has pasted newspapers to block the view from outside. However, at the time of writing of this article, the Voices team found that one of the ladies’ toilet windows had neither newspaper, nor curtains. That this particular incident is not the first to have been reported to the Security Office is discouraging and alarming to the student community. The showering area also seemed to have some problems earlier because of the low height of the wall, and it was only some time back that plastic sheets were installed to increase the height of the wall.
The Secretary for Women’s affairs, Students’ Council, Ms. Debaleena Basu, was notified of the incident, and upon meeting Prof. Sandhya Visweshwaraiah, the current head of the Sexual Harassment Committee, was ensured that actions will be taken to address this issue. Ms. Basu also informed Voices that the student representatives for Swimming Pool will be asked to ensure that some firm measures are taken.
That, despite previous such complaints, nothing permanent seems to have been done, and in this particular case, it was only
alertness on the student’s part that enabled her to notice the phone is a particular cause for concern. The Voices team hopes for prompt action to permanently end this problem. Meanwhile, as long as the miscreants are allowed leeway to repeat their ignominious acts, we ask the students to be extra-vigilant.