WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS!
While hundreds of Indians watched the TV serial Udaan in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a mere source of entertainment, a young Nupur, more enthralled than others, built her dreams as she patiently traced the journey of India's first female IPS officer on her TV set. While then the uniform inspired her, today she adorns the uniform, inspiring many more who are in her periphery. Nupur Prasad, IPS, is one of the most respected officers in the Delhi Police Force today, as she executes her crucial role as the DCP of the newly formed district Shahdara. "The actress Kavita Chaudhury had really inspired me, I remember how they conducted their training, and in my training days I felt so fulfilled that yes I was finally here," says Prasad, who independently handles charge of Shahdara.
Today the Delhi Police Force sees close to 10 per cent of women across positions. Even though the numbers are still nowhere near being equal, they are promising only as a predicament of growth. Earlier, witnessing female police officers marching in crisp uniform was a matter of chance, but now gradually the sight is becoming more common. The Delhi Police Force is also initiating moves to ensure that 33 per cent seats are reserved for women in the direct recruitment process. "When I was undergoing my training I had received a call as somebody had committed suicide. When I reached the spot there were several people who had gathered, astounded to see a lady officer, wondering if she would at all be able to look at a dead body," laughs Monika Bhardwaj, IPS batch 2007, who is also currently the DCP PCR. "But now of course things are changing, people are less surprised to see women officers, and I feel so proud to say this, that so many more of us are entering the forces and people are accepting us in roles that haven't been traditionally seen as our domain," she adds.
The Nirbhaya gangrape case that took place on the ominous night of December 16, 2012, had spread chills across the entire nation and beyond. At this time of dismay, it was Chhaya Sharma, IPS batch 1999, former DCP South who had stepped in and taken charge to put these hardened criminals behind bars. On an earlier interview with Millennium Post, she had said, "Finding and arresting the criminals in this case had probably been the most satisfying aspect of my job. The pressure was unique, challenge was big, and it called for superhuman effort of each member of the team." Even at a time of such immense crisis, and pressure, Sharma had remained undeterred in achieving her goal by putting these barbarians behind the bars.
While many of us sit at home hoping to make a difference in the world, these ladies, proudly adorning the uniform, have gone out, taken that extra step and made that mentionable bit of difference. "I am not just a police officer I am a social worker too. Unless I give back to society I cannot be true to my duty," said a proud Aslam Khan, DCP Traffic, Delhi Headquarters. She takes her practice of assisting the needy outside the domain of law and order. "I have always engaged in charity, as Additional DCP I had given out computers for training. Currently, I am looking for a child who I can sponsor," she added.
The journey of lady officers is often not as smooth as it would probably be for their male counterparts. However, with time as more ladies enter the forces, conceptions are evolving as our society too is moving towards brighter days. "During my time as a probationer, junior inspectors would readily salute male officers, but they would hesitate when I walked by," said a grinning Garima Bhatnagar, Joint Commissioner of Traffic Police. "Now however they do not hesitate at all. That a lady is a police officer has become less surprising for them," she added. "In the 1990s, when I began, seniors would not trust lady officers with work so readily, we had to work extra hard to prove that we could perform as well as our male counterparts, if not better in some situations," said Bhatnagar who is an IPS officer from the 1994 batch.
However, Nupur Prasad, a 2007 batch IPS officer claims otherwise, "I was always given adequate responsibility, and my seniors had a lot of trust in me, which I believe has really been a blessing. They always encouraged me to work harder and do better." From the 1990s to the late 2000s the presence of women in the police forces has become more conspicuous, which has also made others more sensitive to their presence. However we still have a long way to go. "I believe, being a woman we should encourage even more women to join the forces. Since we have been successful in adorning the uniform, it is now our duty to assist others in reaching the same heights," said Nupur Prasad. "Women are still very hesitant to join forces as they believe they have to be physically built a certain way to undergo training. But let me tell you, I was never tall or very strong, however I kept pushing myself, and that is why I am here today. Girls out there should not doubt their abilities. Just motivate yourself, and if people around you motivate you too, that's an added bonus," said Esha Pandey, DCP Special Unit of Police for Women and Children.
Women today, are active in a wide variety of roles in the forces. From the PCR to the Traffic Control rooms, to having independent charge of districts and departments, women in the police forces are making a huge difference. While the task as an officer is onerous, there is without a doubt immense adrenaline rush and prestige associated with the uniform. As the proud ladies recall their most memorable instance as a police officer – some are followed by laughter, and others by silences. "When I was posted in Pondicherry, there was a massive rape case in Tamil Nadu, which my team and I had been successful in cracking. Thereafter, I got calls from Tamils from all across the globe thanking me for my services, telling me how proud they are of me," beamed a fulfilled Monika Bhardwaj. "My toughest test which I successfully overcame was when I uncovered a child trafficking racket being conducted by an NGO, in 2014. We feel proud when we make a difference, but because we are so close to the reality it often brings in a lot of dismay too," said Nupur Prasad, one of the most lauded police officers in Delhi today.
"My most memorable moment actually wouldn't be an immediate law and order situation but organizing the Independence Day and the Republic Day events in the capital. I had the responsibility of ensuring smooth functioning of the entire event on both these days of national pride – and I felt very content that I could efficiently arrange such a big event which has so many security concerns," acclaimed a proud Esha Pandey. "During my posting in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, there was an ATM fraud. At that time internet facilities were very weak, and it was an uphill task to crack this entire racket. However, my team and I travelled till Jharkhand and caught the people who were creating this nuisance. This was really a proud moment for me, as this was the first time, anybody in the islands had been successful in uncovering an online racket," said Aslam Khan, whose piercing eyes, and crisp uniform, could unnerve even the hardest criminal.
"It is commonly believed that as women we are at a disadvantaged position, however this is not so, women are able to balance out situations and they bring in a very important aspect that men often miss – empathy," added Aslam Khan. Possibly this is the reason that the Delhi Police has initiated a move to bring about a makeover in the image of police stations which are commonly perceived as largely intimidating spaces.
New age officers, mostly women, are being employed as the first point of reference for those who enter police stations to file a complaint, or seek for information. Women are more soft spoken, patient, and approachable – as claimed by the Delhi Police to be the precursor for such a move. While this does lead to employment of several women, there are still certain concerns. First, the women are only the first point of reference, this does not do away with the harsh treatment that civilians face from inspectors inside police stations otherwise, and second, to assume that only women can be patient and soft-spoken reeks of strong sexism.
The profile of a hard-hitting IPS officer doesn't come easy, it comes with a cost of sacrifice. "While I am very proud of myself, I do wish I had spent more time with my children during their formative years. However, I do not regret it, it is just a flipside," echoed both Garima Bhatnagar and Nupur Prasad. "As I spend the entire day at work, the only thing I want to do as I step back home is to play with my little children," said Monika Bhardwaj, a glowing mother of one-year-old twins.
"My biggest regret is that there is still a lot of mistrust among civilians for the police. I wish they would understand that we are here to help them, and we will do what we can to the best of our abilities," said Esha Pandey, another young mother balancing both her professional and personal lives with great ease. "We are all part of the same system, and we become victims of its fallacies too. I wish over time more new thoughts and ideas are accommodated so that we can move forward, and we are not stuck in the same place forever," suggested Aslam Khan.
Today, the Delhi Police Force despite being predominantly male sees female officers in top, respected positions. As women gradually break out of their shells and those around them further nurture their desires, our hopes of an equal society, albeit a distant dream, begin gaining some precedence. As Garima Bhatnagar also says, "To be in the forces is not an easy task, but it isn't impossible either. You have to be determined; with the right motivation and grit I am sure that girls today can bring about a magnitude of change."