| Lt governor Joshi launches Parivartan on Monday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Aug. 29: As Delhi police constable Mithilesh Kumari took her first few steps around “her area”, the congested resettlement colonies of Jehangirpuri, she made history today.
For the first time in the capital ' perhaps in the country ' policewomen have been appointed “beat constables”, in charge of entire localities.
In their battle with crimes against women, Delhi police have begun by changing their own attitude to the women in their midst.
A beat constable’s job is to patrol his “area” and generally watch over it, noting down if anything suspicious is happening or if anyone needs help. There is more than one beat constable for an area: they take turns patrolling according to a roster.
The police have started out with 40 women beat constables under a scheme called “parivartan” in northwest district, where the highest number of crimes against women take place, but it will gradually be extended across Delhi.
“We usually deploy women for (handling) pickets. To entrust an area of 40,000 to 50,000 people with a woman constable, to actually give her the responsibility of a territorial unit ' well, this will be a first,” a senior police officer said.
What did Mithilesh do on her first day'
“We are just two women constables on this beat. We had training sessions earlier with NGOs, doctors and psychologists, who told us how to counsel women and children,” said Mithilesh, whose duties, in her 11 years with the Delhi police so far, had been confined to answering complaints by women.
“There are things women complainants don’t feel comfortable telling our male colleagues about. That is where we come in. Initially, we are taking rounds and are also going door to door, talking to women and children and telling them we are here to help them.”
She has already got some feedback. “The women in my area have told me that in the evenings, they feel unsafe as men stand around in groups and pass comments about them and their daughters. I told my colleagues and we decided to try and keep an eye on this.
“We have to also talk to them about their children ' boys or girls, because even boys can be victims. If something more serious happens, then senior officials will get involved.”
The areas most prone to crimes against women ' such as Sultanpuri, Mongolpuri, Jehangirpuri, Bhalswa, JJ Colony, Bawana, Mukundpur and Samaipur Badli ' have been selected for these beats. The women constables, though, are being spared night duty, at least for now.
The programme was launched today by Delhi lieutenant governor B.L. Joshi. Additional deputy commissioner (northwest district) Sagarpreet Huda, a PhD in sociology, played a key role in designing the programme.
The policewomen’s main job is to communicate with women residents. They will deliver awareness lectures, carry on door-to-door awareness programmes, hand out safety literature by NGOs.
“Women will be encouraged to be pro-active in complaining, so that we can gather information about potential sexual abusers,” an officer said.