Swati Maliwal has a long list of enemies. But in a city where a rape is reported every four hours, she says: Somebody has to raise their voice
The fact my car has arrived at the road, it would already be known, Swati Maliwal says as her Delhi government vehicle coasts along GB Road, a strip of hardware and machinery shops at street level, and dark-windowed brothels above.
The pimps have their people watching, calling, she says, motioning at the tea stalls and hawkers lining the street. Nobody appears to pay the car any notice in Delhis afternoon traffic, but in the past year Maliwal has had to learn to see enemies everywhere.
As the youngest ever commissioner for women, in one of the most dangerous cities for women in the world, she has made a long list of them.
At first I was shocked, the 32-year-old says of being asked to become chair of Delhis commission for women (DCW) in mid-2015. I thought this post didnt really have any powers.
Government watchdogs including for minorities, lower castes and backward classes abound in Indias state and national bureaucracies, but many are considered toothless. Delhis womens commission in particular is derided as a parking lot for politicians.
Then Maliwal, a former activist, actually read the decades-old legislation that governs the womens watchdog. I was shocked again, she says.
Though the powers had never been used, the commission could do more than just publicise cases or recommend changes: it could order government departments to turn over information, and summon anyone it chose, even Delhis most senior police officials, for civil examination. And if that information or those people arent provided, we have the power to issue arrest warrants, Maliwal says.
In the 18 months since that discovery, Maliwal has refashioned the DCW into a crusading organisation, taking on the cases of about 12,000 of the women who line the faded halls outside her office each day, and pushing occasionally forcing police and government departments to give a true picture of womens safety in the capital.
One of the first things she sought was the conviction rate in alleged crimes against women in Delhi. For six months the police refused to give us this information, she says.
We issued a notice, and they told us it would cause a law and order problem if they gave us the data regarding crimes against women. We did not back down and we summoned the police commissioner. After which the data came.
The statistics showed that more than 31,000 crimes against women had been registered with the police in the two years to 2014. Of those, just 146 less than half of one percent had resulted in convictions.