RASHMI SHUKLA

A Novel Ap­proach To Polic­ing Pune

Citadel - - FRONT PAGE - BY SUNITTA RA­MAN sunitta.citadel@gmail.com

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.”

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