After the victim’s doctor confirmed the incident and the state women’s commission promised suo moto cognisance, a number of female police personnel revealed that pregnant cops have to often put up with stressful bandobast duties and insensitive senior male colleagues.
Lack of gender sensitivity at the workplace is commonplace in India and the city, and even the police force is not unaffected. No specific rules or written guidelines, insensitive senior male colleagues with massive egos, family pressures and odd duty hours, including night shifts and VVIP bandobast – female police personnel say this is what they have to deal with routinely.
On condition of anonymity, a female officer of the rank of inspector said, “Neither do we have explicit rules, nor an organisational structure on basis of which we can fight for our human rights. If we argue with our seniors or do not follow through on orders, we are branded as arrogant and not capable of doing duty efficiently. We have to face these issues solely because of the insensitive and patriarchal attitude of senior officers.”
“We face huge problems during heavy bandobast duties, especially during festivals like Ganeshotsav or VVIP visits. We can’t relax for even a minute in such times. This often leads to serious medical problems which become more severe in post-retirement years,” the officer added.
Another woman constable, who is in an advanced stage of pregnancy and is trying to get transferred to a side branch from her police station, told MiD DAY on condition of anonymity that she has got on-paper transfer, but the in-charge of her police station is yet to relieve her from routine duties.
“If I don’t get rest during this crucial stage of my pregnancy, then what’s the use of getting transferred just on-paper?” she lamented. “Senior male officers should be sensitised during their induction or during their course of service to consider requests of pregnant police officers on humanitarian grounds. This has to be done regularly so that the next batches don’t face such issues,” the constable stated.
Speaking to MiD DAY, deputy commissioner of police Vishwas Pandhare said, “Apart from maternity leaves, there are no specific rules in existence with regard to assigning duties to pregnant women police officers or constables. We consider their requests on humanitarian grounds and avoid giving them difficult tasks during their pregnancy period.”
The matter came to the fore when a few days back a woman police constable posted at Bund Garden police station had to undergo medical termination, after she was denied leave during advanced stage of her pregnancy. Her application was kept pending at the police station level for about a month from December 4 and then sent to the DCP office. Meanwhile, on January 10, the cop started feeling uneasy and was admitted to a hospital in Yerawada, where she is still undergoing treatment. Upon admission, doctors told her that the foetus was dead and had to be removed. Police commissioner Gulabrao Pol has now ordered an inquiry into this matter. The probe will bear out when the constable had applied for leave and why that application took a month to reach the higher authorities for sanction.
According to inside sources, the lady had applied for maternity leave on December 4, and her application was referred to Zone II office the same day. She started feeling unwell and took casual leave to get herself admitted to a private hospital in Yerawada on January 9. However, the baby she delivered was stillborn.
Dr Mahanda Nimal said that the woman was suffering from high blood pressure and she was advised rest during her pregnancy, but she did not take leave. Nimal added, “The death of the foetus happened due to high blood pressure.”
When asked about setting up a system in which none of the pregnant personnel will be denied leave or transfer, Gulabrao Pol said, “We have initiated an inquest into the Bund Garden police station incident. Once that inquiry is over, we will take suitable action.”
Manisha Nirbhavane, spokesperson for state women’s commission said that the body would take suo moto cognisance of this case. Nirbhavane added that gender sensitisation is the need of the hour and police should be sensitised about their responsibility and attitude towards their female colleagues and complainants. Nirbhavane added that last year, a programme was conducted in Mumbai aimed at gender sensitisation of police force, but no concrete directives were formulated back then.
Advocate Supriya Kothari said that it was a clear case of negligence, and the female police constable could ask for compensation for ‘mental, physical and financial losses’ against the persons responsible, who did not care for health. “It is unlikely that the lady would speak up, fearing the loss of her job. In this case, it is the department’s duty to compensate her to boost the force’s morale,” she maintained.
Women police personnel with over 16 weeks of pregnancy may switch to alternative working dress, which includes a Khaki saree – silk saree in winter and cotton or terrycot in summer – to be draped over the left shoulder passing under the shoulder straps, with the service badge, and Khaki cotton blouse of waist length worn up to the elbow.