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By TT Bureau in Maharashtra
  • Published 23.01.05

Meera Borwankar
JCP, Mumbai and head of crime branch

She made history on July 21, 2004, when she took charge of Mumbai?s famed crime branch to become the first woman ever to head the department, which has to contend with, among other things, one of the world?s most organised mafias. The 46-year-old mother of two teenage sons pipped Arup Patnaik, special IG of the Special Reserve Force, and K.L. Prasad, an IG at the state police headquarters, to the post. Borwankar is known as one of the toughest officers Maharashtra has had ? her bosses, subordinates and the criminals she has tackled will heartily vouch for that. During her stint with the state Crime Investigation Department from 1993-95, one of the important cases she investigated was the infamous Jalgaon sex scandal in which local politicians were accused of duping young girls with false promises of jobs and loans. For her work, Borwankar has received the President?s Medal for meritorious service in 1997, apart from the Police Medal and the Director General?s Insignia. Educational high point? She has studied policy analysis in law enforcement at the University of Minnesota in the US.


G. Aswati
ASP, Gadchiroli

When asked about how a woman police officer can make a difference in the lives of ordinary women, Aswati replies, ?A woman is seated in front of me right now. She is telling me about things in her life that she can never tell a male police officer?. Aswati (seen here with her husband C. Dorje) emphasises that women will certainly make a difference as far as crimes against women go. She may be the daughter of acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, but her aspirations have little to do with art. Known as an officer of integrity, she belongs to the 2000-batch of Assam cadre and was posted in Assam before being transferred to Maharashtra as assistant superintendent of police of the Naxal-infested Gadchiroli region.

Made in Maharashtra: Maharashtra has in fact a high number of women police officers compared to other states. Apart from Borwankar and Aswati, the state police has Sridevi Goyal, special IG, railways; Rashmi Shukla, deputy IG, prisons; Archana Tyagi, superintendent of police, Ratnagiri district; Maria Fernandes who is posted as deputy commissioner of police, headquarter-II, Mumbai police; Supriya Patil-Yadav, DCP, state intelligence department in the state police headquarter in Mumbai, deputy inspector general of police (prisons), superintendent of Arthur Road jail, Swati Sathe; and deputy commissioner (traffic) Pradnya Saravade. Saravade works as the deputy commissioner of the social service branch which falls under the direct supervision of Borwankar. As DCP in-charge of the port zone, she had unearthed a racket of exotic foreign-made cars being imported into India through corrupt port officials.

Damayanti Sen
DCP, DD, Calcutta

On the phone Damayanti Sen, deputy commissioner of police (special), detective department, Calcutta, sounds as no-nonsense a person as she later transpires to be. She doesn?t mind interviews, she says, provided the talk revolves around her ? no personal questions, please! When you see Damayanti Sen (left), sitting in her large Lal Bazaar detective department room, she looks incredibly young, a tiny figure in her large straight-backed leather chair. But she exudes self-confidence. Because she doesn?t think that one?s gender makes any difference to the job at hand. Not in her profession and not in any other. ?No, I don?t think that women are better or worse off in a job. The only reason people ask a lot of questions related to my gender, is because there are fewer women in my profession now than men. But as that changes, people will stop being so interested.? Sen did her bachelors and masters in economics from Jadavpur University, both with a first class first. She took her IPS exams in 1996 and says she just happened to drift into the profession. She is married and her husband is in teaching.

Kanchan Chowdhury
DGP, Uttaranchal

The country got its first woman director-general of police with Kanchan Chowdhury taking over as the head of the force in Uttaranchal since last year. Chowdhury wants to do ?something concrete for the women of Uttaranchal? and is planning to set up counselling centres in every district, not only in Uttaranchal but in the entire country. ?These centres could provide shelter, counselling, rehabilitation and other needs of oppressed and depressed women,? she elaborates. When asked how she felt that about being the new DGP of Uttaranchal and commanding a force of so many men, she says, ?Nothing special. But being the head of the police force, I shall see that my command is obeyed in letter and spirit.?

Chowdhury is, interestingly, the inspiration behind the Eighties? TV serial on a woman cop, Udaan.

Kanwaljeet Deol
JCP, Delhi

As joint commissioner of police, Delhi headquarters, she has reduced several hardened criminals to their quaking knees, and as an official who brooks no oversight from her teams, is regarded with considerable awe by her colleagues too. Currently holding two posts, she is also the acting special commissioner of police, administration. She swears by T.S. Eliot and Marquez, but when it comes to her own literary skills, prefers to write something like 101 Tips To Survive The City (Penguin, 2002). Deol belongs to the Union Territory cadre, and joined the IPS after an MSc in physics from Punjab University in 1977, chiefly to be with her husband, Shamsher Deol, who had qualified for the IPS the year before. She says she owes her knowledge of the nitty-gritties of the police system to her first posting in 1978, in Panjim, where she had three police stations under her. She thinks policing is like mothering. ?Policing has been regarded a man?s profession for a long time. It?s a fallacy. I think policewomen give a more palatable image to the public. They provide a soft side to a hard profession,? says Deol, who is on a mission to create a more effective police force in the 10 years of service that she has left.

Vimla Mehra
JCP, Crime Against Women Cell, Delhi

As joint commissioner of police, crime against women (CAW) cell, Delhi, she is taking joint commissioner Kanwaljeet Deol?s work forward (it was Deol who was at the forefront of the cell in 1986). Mehra, who has been heading the cell since 2002, and has brought in some very effective changes in its functioning, started with a posting in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after her induction into the IPS in 1978, but has held an array of posts which required a fair amount of courage on her part. She was posted as additional DCP, south, after the infamous 1984 riots in Delhi, and has worked in the Central Reserve Police Force for four-and-a-half years, which included two years in the Rapid Action Force (RAF). The CAW cell deals mainly with matrimonial crimes, including domestic abuse, dowry deaths and other related crimes. Mehra may also be credited with starting the 1091 Helpline, a 24-hour distress call centre for women, a mobile helpline which immediately starts for the destination called from and a post box service, where women can write to P.. Box 5353 for help. Now a strong 170-member force, the women?s crime police also imparts training in self-defence. ?I am all for improving our gender sensitivity in 2005,? says Mehra.