Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A feminine force


B. Sandhya, Inspector General of Police, bemoans the poor image of the police in society, even as she tackles family problems, crime, and road accidents

By Shevlin Sebastian

One morning, a housewife, Meera (name changed), came to see B. Sandhya, the Inspector General of Police, Ernakulam Range. “She told me that she was constantly receiving indecent messages on her mobile phone,” says Sandhya, who ordered an investigation.

The offender belonged to another district. He was using the phone to send sex messages to many women. “We are inquiring on how he got Meera’s number,” says Sandhya. “In our society, many people are mentally sick.”

Every morning, Sandhya receives members of the public at her office on Marine Drive. The complaints range from financial cheating, physical beating of the wife by the husband, children abandoning old parents, and unnatural deaths.

“The relatives will inform me about the deaths,” she says. “Sometimes, they allege that the police investigation was not done properly.”

Sandhya admits easily that the police have a poor image in society. “There is a historical reason,” she says. The force, during the rule of the British, was used as a weapon to oppress the people. But, today, despite India being a thriving democracy the public continues to view the police as an instrument of persecution.

“It is always there in the back of their minds even though the people might not have experienced a single instance of bad behaviour by the police,” says Sandhya.

The unfavourable portrayal of the men in khaki in television serials and films has also aggravated the situation. “As a result, people continue to look at the police in a negative way,” says Sandhya. “But we are there to serve the people.”

But it does not help that, in the name of serving the people, the police behave rudely and use third-degree methods, even in petty cases. “We have made it clear that torture is not the policy of the department,” says Sandhya. “When a policeman uses these techniques, he is going against the force.”

She is also determined that corruption will be dealt with firmly. “It would help if the public lodge complaints,” says Sandhya. “Nowadays, thanks to technology, it is easy. You can send an SMS or an e-mail, in case you don’t want to appear in person.”

But thanks to the Janamaithri community policing programme, more and more people are meeting policemen in person. “There are many crimes which have been solved because of the information given by the public.”

Sandhya gives an example. A 19-year-old plumber was doubling up as a thief at night. “The local people had a suspicion about him,” she says. “Because of the Janamaithri project we could get him early. Otherwise, he might have committed many more thefts before we caught him.”

By that time he would be 25, a seasoned thief, and beyond redemption. “Now, when he leaves prison, we will try to reform him,” she says. “If we fail, the police, as well as the society will have to suffer him for the next fifty years.”

Meanwhile, immediately, the force is gearing up for the monsoon season. “The number of thefts will increase,” says Sandhya. “People sleep longer and deeper during the rainy season. So thieves take advantage.”

Another drawback of the rains is that the frequency of accidents rises steeply. “This is mainly due to slippery roads,” she says.

Another aim of Sandhya’s is to reduce the number of pending cases. “Victims get upset when cases are registered and the results are not forthcoming,” she says. “I am trying to ensure that the petitions are taken up in a time-bound manner, especially atrocities against women.”

In her spare time, Sandhya writes novels and does paintings. When asked whether policing damages the soul, she laughs and says, “Not at all. I have had so many unusual experiences and am able to meet different kinds of people. This has enriched my art.”

So what is Sandhya’s understanding of human beings? “Many people come to meet me to tell me their stories,” she says. “There is nobody to listen to them. People need affection and do not get it.”

This has a direct repercussion on society. When children don’t receive love and care from their parents, they have a tendency to gravitate towards crime when they grow up. “I am worried about that,” she says.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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