Women Must Gain Equality By Rising To Their True Potential: IPS Vinita S

What is the kind of strength that a woman needs, when she decides to become a police officer in a patriarchal country like ours? What all are the hardships she faces every single day? Where does she get that drive to try and make a difference? All this, and more was going on in my head as I went in to interview IPS Vinita S, the Superintendent of Police, Gondia.

I have heard so much about the Mobile Police Station initiative of yours. Could you tell us what it is all about?

We launched Mobile Police Station Camps in Bhandara district of Maharashtra in January 2017, where I was posted as District Superintendent of Police. I realised that unless the gap between community and police is not addressed, real control over crime and making the society safer will always remain an unfulfilled dream. Like even to register a complaint, they needed to walk miles to come to a police station. Moreover, there was a major taboo against approaching the police.

Mobile Police Station Camps also had a lady constable apart from senior officer of the police station, including SHO or Second in Command, other constabulary or staff of the same.

To change this mind set, mobile police station camps were launched, that would function as a full-fledged Police Station wherein across the district, urban and rural area, officer and ranks would camp and hear the public out and resolve the issues on that very spot. In fact, the Mobile Police Station Camps also had a lady constable apart from senior officer of the police station, including SHO or Second in Command, other constabulary or staff of the same. These camps were set up in urban town halls, city premises, areas under gram panchayat, zila parishad, various community centres and the complaints were filed there and then itself, and if an FIR needed to be registered, they were assisted to the police station. This brought police closer to the people and thereafter, every Saturday camps are being held across 17 police stations and over 1800 camps have already benefited more than 1.5 lakh people.

We always hear that police force is short of staff. Hence the delay in reaching the scene of crime in many cases. So how did you find officers who were ready to participate in this initiative?

The fortunate part was that despite being low on headcount, the police personnel were willing to contribute to this path-breaking concept and be a part of the mission as there are many officials who wanted to show public that officials are there to assist them and not harass them. Our aim was to set-up systematic, people-friendly initiative which is now getting replicated in the other districts of the state as well. In fact, these police camps became a common platform and not only senior officials of police, right up to the rank of Special Inspector General have attended them, but even officers of other departments started to attend and directly interact with locals.

Our aim was to set-up systematic, people-friendly initiative which is now getting replicated in the other districts of the state as well.

Going back to your childhood, how did you decide that you wanted to become a police officer?

I remember that when I was four, I was very fascinated with the beeper on the top of the car. So I asked my father that I also want such a car. My father just laughed and said ‘Collector-SP ban jao, phir mil jaegi’. After this, all through the childhood, I remember him calling me ‘Collector Sahab’ or ‘SP Sahab’. So here I am … ‘SP Sahiba!’

What about your education? Did you always want to be an IPS?

I did my schooling with Science background and went on to do my graduation with Arts with English, history and geography. With Masters in Public Administration, I had already cleared UPSC 2010 and eventually got into IAS. Though IAS as a job was preferable for a lady but somehow the charm of the uniform called out to me.

I somewhere had a passion for the uniform, and it was a bureaucrat’s life or this one. And I chose the uniform. Since then making police and its processes people-friendly has been my larger mission.

At every step, a woman needs to prove her mettle. But the passion to make a difference drives you through. As women, we have no scope for making any mistakes, unlike men.

What about facing sexism on the job? Every woman who goes out and works faces that in her field but more so in a male-dominated field like yours. How do you deal with it day in and day out?

Definitely the patriarchal mind-set exists and we need to work doubly hard to prove ourselves. But fortunately, we as women are very strong when we really want to do something. I was the first lady officer in Gondia district, which is among the top 35 Naxal affected districts in India. There was a constant doubt whether a lady officer will be able to conduct elections there. I must state that not only were the elections conducted peacefully but each and every jawan in the district is safe and secure. I took charge just a month before the elections and made sure I had toured the entire area and had everything organised to make sure the parliamentary elections were conducted in complete democratic manner.

At every step, a woman needs to prove her mettle. But the passion to make a difference drives you through. As women, we have no scope for making any mistakes, unlike men.

Tell us more about your latest initiative – STREE SQUAD.

So STREE SQUAD is an all-women squad which we have launched on 1st of May – Maharashtra day, which is completely dedicated to solving women’s safety and security issues. Today every woman in the country feels unsafe, when she steps out of the house and unfortunately, even in their own houses they face domestic and sexual abuse. This needs to change. There will be regular patrolling of areas where women feel vulnerable like markets, malls, parking areas etc.

At every step, a woman needs to prove her mettle. But the passion to make a difference drives you through. As women, we have no scope for making any mistakes, unlike men.

The Stree Squad will visit every colony, every area and make sure it is safe for women to commute and stay. Special women force has been assigned for this, who are identifiable by special uniforms, and women can reach out to them anytime. They will mark all the safe areas with stickers saying ‘Stree Yahan Zaroor Aana’. Separate WhatsApp groups which are being created which will be monitored by police women who have been trained and sensitized towards handling women’s issues. These will be used to impart knowledge about laws and rights of women as most women in our country are unaware that the law is on their side.

Hopefully we will work towards being able to create a Stree Secure environment in the country. Stree Squad will be women’s Best Friend Forever.

You are a recipient of National Shakti Puruskar, Dainik Bhaskar Woman’s Award and some other prestigious women’s awards too. Congratulations on that!

Yes, thank you. There is so much being done across the globe, in the field of women empowerment and it always feels great when organizations that are working relentlessly, acknowledge your work.

What is encouraging is that now the good work being done in non-metropolitan districts is also getting noticed as India still lives in cities like Bhandra and Gondia.

The Stree Squad will visit every colony, every area and make sure it is safe for women to commute and stay. Special women force has been assigned for this, who are identifiable by special uniforms, and women can reach out to them anytime.

For the aspirants who look forward to inspirational women icons like you when preparing for administrative services, what are the tips you would like to share?

See one may inspire from success stories of others, but every success should have its own story. There is no doubt that family, parents, colleges, coaching play an important role, but then what ultimately matters is your own dedication and effort. Like if merely parents or colleges or coaching institutes would have made IAS, IPS etc, then every child of the same parent would have become successful. While your parents can guide you, ultimately it’s your own hard work, dedication and drive which makes you successful in this elite competitive examination.

Any parting words for the women reading this interview?

All I would like to say is that please consider the police as your friend, helper and guide in case you are stuck in any difficulty. We are trying very hard to work against the taboo of police being unapproachable. If there is a case of child abuse, domestic violence, eve teasing, sexual abuse or more, approach the police. We are here to help you.

Above anything else, realise that dependency, vulnerability, fear, compromise and keeping yourself, your dreams, aspirations, career and individuality secondary to others have to be given up by women. Women must move towards position of equality, respect and power not by trying to compete with their male counterparts but by rising up to their own true potential.

You can also read the interview at https://www.shethepeople.tv/home-top-video/books-mothers-day-fiction-listicle

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