A Novel Approach To Policing Pune
When you are in a field that requires you to watch out for others, you have to live the responsibility. Being in a profession like the police service is surely not easy, especially in a country like India, where the population is huge and a minor mistake can explode many a times. In such conditions, few make a remarkable impact on the lives of the people. We have had women cops who have taken a proud place in our lives.
The recent addition is our very own Rashmi Shukla, who took over as the city’s Police Commissioner in 2016. Since then, she has been making waves with her pro-active work and initiatives such as Buddy Cop, Police Kaka and CitySafe App. Her friendly nature and approachable work ethic has won the hearts of the Punekars. She thinks positive and that is how her work has become more successful than one thought. It took Citadel a while to reach her, but her friendly nature just made us smile and want to meet this fascinating woman even more. She speaks about herself, her initiatives, the issues she faces in the city and what women can do to break the barriers...
Please tell us something about yourself and your foray into the Civil Services. Did you always want to be an IPS officer?
I was born and brought up in Allahabad. I was a very shy person, not very outgoing, and I did not take active part in sports when I was in school. I was always busy studying and reading books. It was during my post graduation in Geography that the thought of joining the Civil Services came to my mind. I passed the Civil Services (exams) in the first attempt and was selected for the IPS cadre. My family was really surprised; they only asked me, ‘Will you be able to do it? You are not very outgoing and friendly. You are not an outdoor person.’ This got me thinking and I took up the challenge. Today, here I am in front of you. I was promoted to Intelligence Chief of Maharashtra and worked under Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for three years. My husband is Inspector General of Railway Protection Force for Western India. I have two children, a daughter who is preparing to join Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, and a son who is in standard twelve.
What has been the most difficult challenge you had to face in Pune since you took over as Commissioner two years ago?
I will not call anything difficult or a challenge. I love my work and I am committed to the people of this country. As a police officer, I feel responsible and accountable towards the citizens of this country. Every day is a new day and I take each day as it comes. My first duty as a Commissioner of Police, Pune, was to make the citizens of Pune feel comfortable with the police force. Whenever they see a policeman on the road, they get scared. I wanted to erase this fear from the minds of the people. While going to the police station, you should not feel intimidated. I made policing more citizen-friendly and approachable. Police should treat the people well. I wanted the police force to be more accessible to the people. If the police force is approachable, then the citizens will have more faith and trust in them. Every day, I get a lot of messages on my phone; I answer them, but do not have the time to call back. I am approachable and my number is available to all. I also connect with people on social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
How have you been able to handle the chaotic traffic in Pune?
The people of Pune do not believe in following traffic rules… signal jumping, not wearing helmets, three people on one bike... Pune has vehicles as much as its population. There are about 40 lakh vehicles on the road with poor road infrastructure. As parents, there are many who buy a two-wheeler for their children, but not a helmet. As parents, they do not believe in wearing a helmet. Then how do they expect their child to wear a helmet? They
“As a police officer, I feel responsible and accountable towards the citizens of this country.My first duty as a Commissioner of Police, Pune,was to make the citizens of Pune feel comfortable with the police force.”
do not lead by example. All these things make me feel very sad. Accidents are bound to happen. My humble request to parents – do not buy a vehicle for your child until he reaches his age. Do not allow your child to leave home without a helmet. Children at the age of fifteen and sixteen years, who are still going to school, do not wear helmets. It is the duty of parents and the school to enforce discipline. Why don’t parents and teachers join hands with the traffic police to ensure discipline? The traffic police do their duty on the roads. We have deployed one thousand traffic police to control the traffic on the roads, but the citizens do not want to follow a system on the roads. Overtaking is another traffic rule that the citizens break all the time. They do not overtake a vehicle from the correct side thus leading to confusion and accidents. I am really saddened by the poor traffic sense that the citizens of Pune have. The statistics are alarming. There have been more than one thousand six hundred deaths caused by accidents, because the rider did not wear a helmet. Most of these deaths are due to head injuries. In this year, there have been about two hundred deaths by accidents. Most of these people were young girls and boys who have not worn helmets. It is really sad.
In the recent past, there have been several crimes against women, especially the ones in the IT sector. How have you been able to initiate Buddy Cop to help women, especially those who are working?
It is very unfortunate that a young techie Rasila Raju, who was working in Infosys, was murdered by a security guard in a fit of rage. Even a young woman named Antara Das was murdered in the rural areas. These boys and girls are very young and don’t know who to approach. They are scared to approach the management or the HR department of their company. They fear losing their jobs. They start working from a very young age to support their families. This left me very shocked and I was feeling very restless for many days. This really got me thinking and I wrote an open letter to all working women in the IT sector. They should have faith in someone. They should feel free to approach someone for help. It is because of this incident that I decided to put Buddy Cop into full operation. We went to IT companies and colleges, and made the students, authorities aware that we are there to help them 24x7. They have the numbers of the cops who are specially assigned for this task. They are just a phone call away. Where ever they are, even in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning, they can call up the nearest Buddy Cop numbers and policeman will be present to handle their problem, but it has to be a genuine problem and not a silly one. Young women or girls who are walking back home alone at night can call up the nearest cop and he/she can help them get back home safely. For cases involving sexual harassment against women, the Vishakha Committee was set up as per the directives of the Supreme Court of India, which is followed by every company in India to tackle sexual harassment cases, but working women are not aware of this. They are not confident enough to share their problems with the HR department or their family members. So we initiated this Buddy Cop to help working women. Today, we have three lakh members registered in Buddy Cop and the numbers are multiplying daily.
“Women are ready to join the police force,but it is not a cushy job.They are not prepared to work hard.They want promotions and a good salary.But are they prepared to get transferred to rural areas or areas that are sensitive? The police force only wants your full commitment towards your duty.”
The recent murder of a child in a Gurgaon School calls for immediate safety of children in schools. How have you helped schools in ensuring that their premises are safe for the students?
After the success of Buddy Cop, children approached me to launch Buddy Cop in schools. I made them understand that Buddy Cop was for working women. I then thought of this idea of initiating Police Kaka in schools. For the safety of children, we had a conference for almost a thousand principals from schools all over Pune. In the conference, children’s safety and security was highlighted, and a lot of stress was laid on verifying the background of the support staff that they are hiring. This is how the Police Kaka initiative was incorporated, which is similar to Buddy Cop. The numbers of police personnel are given to schools and parents, and they can call up the numbers and get in touch with them if any case of emergency. The Police Kaka initiative was launched to help schoolgirls who face so-called ‘Road Romeos’ daily while going to school or tuition classes. Eleven thousand schools and almost eleven lakh students have the mobile numbers of Police Kaka. Along with this, I have also put up the initiative of ‘We Fight Cyber Crime’ to help girls exploited online by men, who post their obscene pictures and send them obscene mails. These young girls don’t know whom to approach, so they have the option of approaching Police Kaka or come to the cyber crime cell. To tackle this situation more effectively, we also have set up the CitySafe app, which is very useful for many people, especially women. There are about one lakh fifty thousand people registered on this app. You don’t need an internet connection, as this is a cellular triangular app, where your name and mobile number and also your location can be located by five people, the nearest police station, control room and also the ACP and DCP. Within six months of installing this app, eight hundred and fifty three complaints have been successfully tackled by the police. My initiatives are getting a very good response. I feel like a mother of those two important initiatives - Buddy Cop and Police Kaka. These initiatives have got a good response from the citizens of Pune and have also met with a lot of praise and appreciation, and I am happy that I have done my duty as a police officer.
Sarhad is an organization aimed at helping children from war-torn Kashmir find a new home. Tell us about your experience of interacting with these children.
Sanjay Nahar is the founder of Sarhad. It is a non-government organization, which sowed its seeds in 1995 to help children from border areas like Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. It has now grown into a very large organization, which not only gives shelter but also education to these displaced children, who hail from places that have not only experienced terrorism but also extreme conflict. All the expenses of these children are borne by Sarhad without any help from government or foreign organizations. These children are separated from their homes and families. They have a lot of fear in them and get agitated very easily if they are singled out. So I was invited by Sanjay Nahar to give these children assurance and comfort and tell them that we are there to help them whenever they need any help from the police force.
It was a heart-warming experience, as these children really felt very lost and alone. It felt really good to come close to these kids. I have designated two officers – one nodal officer and another co-coordinating officer, who can address the problems of these children.
A lot of women constables have complained about harassment within the police force. What is your take on this?
No, this is not true. There is no complaint of harassment that has come to me. If there is any sexual harassment, then they can complain to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who will handle their case. Women are ready to join the police force, but it is not a cushy job. They are not prepared to work hard. They want promotions and a good salary. But are they prepared to get transferred to rural areas or areas that are sensitive? They do not want to go on the field to get hands-on experience of working in a police station. They do not want to take the risk and above all, leave their elderly family members and small children. This is not possible in the police force. It is a gruelling task where you are answerable to the people and the authorities 24x7. The police force only wants your full commitment towards your duty. I have not faced any kind of harassment in my career, which spans thirty years of unflinching hard work and dedication towards the police force.
Since March 8th was Women’s Day, give us your view on gender bias and inequality, which still exists. What message would you want to give your readers?
Women are at the forefront of their careers. They have stormed all male bastions and have reached greater heights in a male dominated society. Why are they thinking of gender bias and inequality? I have not faced any gender bias and inequality in my career at all. I was made the Intelligence Chief of Maharashtra solely on my merit, hard work and calibre. I was the important link between the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. I would not have come this far had I thought of gender bias and inequality. It’s all in the mind. They have to overlook all this and forge ahead with determination and true grit. Only then they will succeed in their chosen field. I have a lot of problems posting women to police stations. Vishrantwadi and Alankar Police stations have women police officers. Other police stations do not have women police officers. It is sad that women are not ready to work in police stations. They are comfortable working in the control room. Manisha Zende, who heads cyber crime, is an expert. Radhika Phadke co-ordinates for Buddy Cop and Police Kaka. Nobody can touch them. You should have calibre and talent to prove yourself. You should make yourself important. I don’t believe that a woman is denied a post or a position because she is a ‘woman’.
Last but not the least, how do you find time for yourself and your family? How do you unwind?
Frankly speaking, I am not a very good cook (laughs)! It is one thing that I do not do. I like embroidery, knitting, and crochet, and also do a bit of reading. I watch TV like National Geographic and Animal Planet, and sometimes old Bollywood films, and generally stay connected with my family, which is based in Mumbai. It is because of family’s support and encouragement that I have come this far in my career.
“I have not faced any gender bias and inequality in my career.I was made the Intelligence Chief of Maharashtra solely on my merit,hard work and calibre.I was the important link between the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.I would not have come this far had I thought of gender bias and inequality.It’s all in the mind.”