Delhi, voted among the most unsafe for women, now has four district police chiefs who are women -- the highest in the capital so far. The job is challenging, sensitisation being the need of the hour, said Monika Bhardwaj from Haryana, Assistant Commissioner of Delhi West district.
But there is more than one thing that these four officers - Aslam Khan from Rajasthan, Monika Bharadwaj from Haryana, Nupur Prasad from Bihar and Meghana Yadav from Delhi - have in common. "Being mothers and striking that balance between personal and professional emergencies is a key challenge we all face," Nupur Prasad said.
A 2017 report by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that Delhi's crime rate is more than twice that of the national average and the capital reports the maximum number of rape cases among 19 major cities. The increase in the number of such cases however is seen by the officers in an alternative light. "More the cases against women, more number of them are ready to come forward. This is change by itself," said Nupur Prasad.
Ms Prasad was the first female officer who was given the task to head a police district in the national capital in 2017. She said she started with a primary focus of weeding out drug dealers and criminal gangs. While the number of female officers watching over entire districts stands at 4 out of 14 currently, the percentage of total women workforce across sectors in Delhi remains low at 11 per cent. "We are improving. We want to get to a day when it will not be a big thing that there are even 14 women officers for all 14 districts. We want it to be the new normal," said Meghana Yadav, stressing that appointing more women to top positions was no guarantee of less crime against women. "Even if we fill all 14 posts, unless men in rural or city background respect women, nothing will change," she said.
In their line of duty, even these four senior officers have encountered resistance. "We have to interact with male cops on a daily basis. Officers come from different backgrounds and sometimes, they need to be directed on how to interact with women. Sentisisation is the only way, starting with male cops to everyone in the society and this change in attitude needs to begin at home," Nupur Prasad said.
But the Delhi Police's approach to women's safety has come a long way, she and her colleagues said. The Nirbhaya case in 2012, when a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi and left fatally injured by the road, was an incident that led to a major reformation in the Delhi Police, they said.
Today, at a time of intense debate about threats to women online, these officers see social media as a medium that could help their cause. "Social media is a space for us to present our side of the story and prevent rumors or fake news. As cops we don't just solve crimes, we do a lot more for the society like run campaigns, etc. and a platform like Twitter helps us do just that," said Monika Bharadwaj who has over 20,000 followers on Twitter adding that she personally handles some complaints that she spots through the platform.