An Indian Police Services officer posted in Telangana has opened up about her experience of helping survivors of domestic abuse and migrant families amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The lockdown, which was announced in March, left lakhs of migrant workers in India out of jobs and forced to walk or cycle their way back home. Meanwhile, cases of domestic violence increased across the world as lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus came into effect. In India, according to data shared by the National Commission for Women, reported cases of domestic violence nearly doubled since the nationwide lockdown came into place on March 25.
Mahabubnagar's Superintendent of Police Rema Rajeshwari says that one incident acted an an "eye opener" for her, prompting her to set up a "Mobile Safety" vehicle to help domestic abuse survivors. Speaking about the incident to Humans of Bombay, Ms Rajeshwari said that a woman from Kanpur telephoned her, distressed that her sister had not called her for three days. The woman revealed that her sister's husband would hit her, and she was worried it had happened again.
"We sent a dispatch team and found her in such a terrible condition, it shook me," says Ms Rajeshwari. "She was badly bruised, hadn't had a single drop of water in 3 days and was writhing in pain."
The police department rushed her to the hospital, where she recovered after three days of treatment, and filed a case against her husband. After that, Ms Rajeshwari, on the request of her sister, helped arrange inter-state travel so she could move from Telangana to Uttar Pradesh.
"That incident was an eye opener - there were so many victims of domestic violence living with their abusers and they couldn't even file a complaint!" she says.
To help others who might be unable to file a complaint while being locked up with their abusers, Rema Rajeshwari set up a mobile safety vehicle that would seek out domestic violence survivors instead of waiting for them to approach the police.
"To help them, I set up 'Mobile Safety'- a vehicle with my team members doing rounds across the district and in 2 weeks, we had 40 cases! Alongside, more members of my team stepped up to help the general populace," she says.
However, as lockdown rules got stricter and migrant families began making their long journeys back home, the police department was stretched thinner and thinner. Ms Rajeshwari and her team set up food banks along the highways to help migrants walking back home. "Once the railways finally opened, we helped 11,000 workers reach home in under 15 days," she says.
Over the past three months, she says, her team has "put their lives at stake and risked their families, so that we could help people". Last week, unfortunately, a number of them tested positive for COVID-19 and have been quarantined. "Still, the only question they ask me is, 'Madam! When can we get back in action?' Such is the love for our duty!" she concludes.
“A month into the lockdown, a lady called me from Kanpur. She was extremely distressed as her sister hadn't called in 3 days. Her husband would hit her and she worried it had happened again. So we sent a dispatch team and found her in such a terrible condition, it shook me. She was badly bruised, hadn't had a single drop of water in 3 days and was writhing in pain. We rushed her to the hospital and filed a case against the husband. 3 days later, she fully recovered, but her sister called again, 'Can you please send her home to me?' So I got all the passes for inter-state travel and made sure she was home safely. That incident was an eye opener– there were so many victims of domestic violence living with their abusers and they couldn't even file a complaint! To help them, I set up 'Mobile Safety'– a vehicle with my team members doing rounds across the district and in 2 weeks, we had 40 cases! Alongside, more members of my team stepped up to help the general populace. Like this one time, we dropped a pregnant lady to the hospital in the police ambulance. When my colleague returned, he was beaming! He was so excited to be there for her and her newborn son! But as the rules got stricter, my team was stretched thin – from naka bandhis to contact tracing. And pretty soon, the migrants began going back home. We set up shelters and tried convincing them to stay but it was futile. So we set up food banks along the highway– and once the railways finally opened, we helped 11,000 workers reach home in under 15 days. Over the past 3 months, my team has put their lives at stake and risked their families, so that we could help people. But last week, a majority of them tested positive and have been quarantined. Still, the only question they ask me is, 'Madam! When can we get back in action?' Such is the love for our duty!”
Since being shared on Thursday, the interview has collected over 38,000 'likes' on Instagram, and another 18,000 on Facebook. The comments section of the posts has been flooded with people praising the work that Ms Rajeshwari and her team has done.
"Thank you madam for your selfless service. We appreciate your team's contribution in helping migrants, protecting women against domestic violence," wrote one Facebook user.
"Really inspiring ! People like her restore our faith in the system," another said.Click for more trending news