About five years ago, Madhureeta Anand, 45, was walking along a street in New Delhi when she was attacked by a miscreant. It was not even very late in the night when the incident took place.
Madhureeta was shaken at the experience, having faced what is every woman’s nightmare.
A single mother and an independent filmmaker and writer, Madhureeta would always remain worried for her daughter.
“As my daughter began growing up and was about 16-17 years old, in her late teens, I would be terrified when she went out. I do not believe in and never support caging our daughters, and I wanted her to have her freedom, but as a mother, I would always be fearful of her safety,” Madhureeta tells Platocast.
“I would keep looking at the watch when she was out. I would call her too many times and begin to panic if she came in even half an hour later than what she promised. One night, I was laying on the bed waiting for her when I realised I had to do something to ensure that these days of restlessness ended,” she added.
Madhureeta soon came up with the idea of a unique mobile app that tells you how safe a place you are about to visit is. She shared her idea with a friend’s husband, Pradeep Bakshi, who developed apps.
“I was in Palo Alto, California, and was having lunch with my school friends one afternoon, when Pradeep, husband of one of my friends, came over and joined us. Pradeep is the Managing Partner of Trantor Inc., and I decided to discuss my idea with him. After a discussion of only about 10 minutes, he agreed to help me develop the app,” Madhureeta says.
The next several months went into developing what is now the ‘Phree App’, available on the Google Play Store with more than 1,000 downloads so far.
“Using the app, people, particularly women and the transgender community, can rate commercial establishments, streets, and areas for safety,” Madhureeta explains.
This app, backed by ‘Made in India’ technology, is open to users around the globe, and helps create a map that marks out safe/unsafe spaces.
The Phree App, which was launched at the end of August this year, benefits travellers, parents, women or anyone who wishes to know about the safety of a place they are about to visit.
“The thing about most of the already-existing safety apps is that you can only use them after you sense danger or when you are already in danger. Imagine having to unlock your phone, open an app and then use it when you have already been attacked. Even cab services like Ola and Uber have an “alert” button that you can use only after you are in danger, and expect someone to come and save you. It could be too late by the time someone arrives. The solution isn’t practical,” Madhureeta says.
Most of these apps, including the Himmat App developed by the Delhi Police, are created with the aim of saving women when they are in trouble.
“My outlook, therefore, was different,” Madhureeta says. “I had to create something that warns us beforehand, and not after we are already in the grips of an attacker.”
The safety statistics for the women in India are grim. The National Crime Record Bureau’s “Crime in India” 2019 report released on September 29, has revealed that crimes against women increased 7.3 per cent from 2018 to 2019.
As per the annual report, on an average 87 rape cases were reported daily, and a total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were reported during 2019. In 2018, meanwhile, the country had reported 3,78,236 cases of crimes against women.
In a country that is extremely unsafe for women, and where chances of a significant change does not look likely anytime soon, Madhureeta’s app is the need of the hour.
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