Students’ Privacy at IISc Swimming Pool Threatened
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.