The Delhi Metro might maintain that the decision to allow women to carry knives up to four inches in length had nothing to do with self-defence or the Bengaluru incident bu, the timing of the announcement has sparked off a debate.

The announcement, coming immediately after the New Year mass molestation reports from Bengaluru had led to speculation in the media that it would provide a tool for protection to women in Delhi, constantly in the news now as victims of eve-teasing and harassment.

For Bengaluru this may have been an aberration but for Delhi and its friendly neigbourhoods of Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, not having any report of eve-teasing in the papers means the city reporter is on leave!

Several girls, mostly under 18, who come to Prayas Institute of Economic Empowerment, run by Prayas at Tughlakabad Extension Area, who come to attend these classes felt that a knife, even if four inches long, would be a boost to their self-confidence when nothing works.

Some of them were not even aware of this decision, which speaks volumes of the state of awareness about their rights among those who need them the most.

Said a 17 year old Archana, (name changed), “I have not heard or read about this but I am sure this would be a great help. Of course, it may not be needed so much in the Metro because the CISF is always there to help but carrying a knife boosts our self-confidence that in case it is needed we would have something handy.”

Had they heard of pepper spray? One of them said that she had heard about it and probably seen it in a film but “I think it must be quite expensive. Keeping a knife is definitely more affordable and easier to use in case there is an emergency”.

Added Alpana (name changed) learning computers at the Centre, ”Good they have done something for women in Metros but what about going home after getting out of the Metro? Will the police save us from the roadside Romeos who stop us and pass lewd comments?”

Worried by the hype that this announcement made in the media, the CISF tried to play down the whole thing. They said that the decision was taken in November to save time of their staff who were wasting time in checking Tiffins of women carrying knives to cut fruits.

They clubbed the knife with other items like lighters, saying, “Apart from one lighter and one matchbox per passenger, we have also allowed passengers to carry tools. We received several requests as labourers travel by metro and carry tools for work.”

But the new found euphoria of being allowed a tool for self-protection is not dying down.

Girls in class rooms this writer talked to were very clear that no one comes to your help and one has to take care of one’s self respect by steering clear of boys who would stop them or make indecent proposals.

Some were brash enough to inform their parents or call up their brothers to teach a lesson to their tormentors but a majority had problems with the typical Indian maternal mentality of blaming the girls.

Neena (name changed) lives in nearby Sagam Vihar, which she claims, is one of the most notorious areas of Delhi.

“My problem is compounded by the fact that if I tell my parents about this daily harassment my mother will always blame me. I am at my wit’s end. That is why I feel that this little knife is a blessing for many girls like me who do not get support from their parents especially the women folk. At least I know now that I can scare them off if the situation gets totally out of control.”

But surprisingly, Dr.Puja Kumari, who heads the PIE run by Prayas advises caution, “I don’t think this is a very wise decision because it can always be misused.

“What is the guarantee that the knife which a woman is allowed to carry will not change hands? She could easily pass it off to her husband or boy-friend in the Metro. Who will be responsible for the consequences of this? I don’t think this is a wise step at all and girls should also not get too carried away.”