The uniform does little to insulate women in the police department from harassment. After a slew of complaints from their female staff deployed on roads, traffic control authorities have decided to train them to fight off molesters as part of a week-long training programme. The session held at the Naigaon police ground in Bhoiwada earlier this month included instruction in judo, karate, street fighting techniques and a few other combat sports.
Vivek Phansalkar, police commissioner (traffic), said, “Our female staff have been complaining about harassment by motorists. So we decided to give them self-defence training. It is proving helpful and the complaints have reduced.”
In the last three years, the female staff in Mumbai traffic police has increased from 15 to 315, accompanied by a commensurate rise in their responsibilities. Most women personnel stationed to monitor traffic have been harassed while on duty, they said.
Vidya Yadav, who joined the department a year ago as traffic constable, says, “Working on roads is part of our duty but working in the public eye has its own issues. We don’t bother about lewd remarks but we do feel bad.” She added that she has more confidence after being trained in martial arts moves.
The training was undertaken with a view to tackle unruly motorists manhandling women constables, particularly freshly inducted ones, after they are held for violating traffic norms.
Megha Lavande, another constable deputed on roads for safety, said, “I faced some problems during my duty on roads but instead of paying them any heed I continued to work. Everybody is not the same and we don’t get good reactions all the time. The training was a good effort to build self-reliance.”
In fact, the traffic police have given pistols to some of their women staff in notorious areas like Nagpada, Pydhonie and Byculla where molestation is rife. Senior officials said the male staff has been asked to help their women counterparts. The patrolling staff also keeps a watch on the posts of women to see if they need any help.
“We have been getting regular complaints about our female staff being harassed. Bikers have pushed them, made comments about them and so on which is a very serious issue,” said Subhash Nilewad, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), who is also in charge of training the staff.
Rita Kori, working with traffic police for more than a year said, “I have also been the victim of such comments and then made complaint to the department. The training is helping to cope with rowdy elements.”
Working on roads is part of our duty but working in the public eye has its own issues. We don’t bother about lewd remarks but we do feel bad
-- Vidya Yadav
Everybody is not the same and we don’t get good reactions all the time. The training was a good effort to build self-reliance
-- Megha Lavande
I have been the victim of such comments and then made complaint to the department. The training is helping to cope with rowdy elements
-- Rita Kori