Tania Roy in a tete-a-tete with Assistant Commissioner of Police (Chatushrungi division) Smita Patil who throws light on women’s safety, gender equality, and more

Monday, 5.30 pm, I reach Smita Patil’s office to chat up the Assistant Commissioner of Police, the only woman ACP in Pune city. Before I enter her office, I already have her picture in mind — a stern, senior, formidable cop. But after stepping in, I am taken aback by the 30-something, bright, affable, cheerful, young officer at the desk.

Her approachable attitude and pleasant demeanour make our conversation more lively and interesting. From marriage to motherhood to parenting skills to her 24/7 job, to being a woman boss to rising crimes against women, she shares her experiences and expertise about a host of things.

We take off on a happy note as she tells me how she has a great supportive husband and a caring mother-in-law. “If I have to wake up at 6 am, my mother-in-law is already up by 5. She makes tea for me, irons my uniform and so on. She’s more than a mother to me. We talk and fight but we never hold any grudges. That’s the secret of our good bonding. As far as my marriage goes, my husband and I share a great rapport. We were great buddies before marriage and we have managed to keep it that way,” says she.

Patil assumed her job responsibilities as ACP (Chatushrungi division), which includes three police stations — Chatushrungi, Sangvi and Hinjewadi — a few months back and she is already in the thick of things. Her previous job as Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO — Rural) in Katol, Nagpur, saw her handle serious offences and sensitive cases.

“As SDPO, I was looking into Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 307 (Attempt to murder), Section 376 (gang rape), highway robberies, dacoities and so on. I even had to bring under control communal strife. I have similar job responsibilities here,” says Patil and adds that gender does not matter in her job. “I always see myself as a police officer, not a woman officer. I do not create boundaries for myself. Also, I have a great sense of responsibility and make sure nothing comes in the way of my work. Also, I never mix my personal and professional lives,” she shares.

Gender equality

Patil strongly believes that every woman must learn to stand on her own feet. “Besides being economically independent, you must not let your emotions get the better of you; think more practically. Apart from being a daughter, sister, wife, mother or daughter-in-law, consider yourself an individual. Try to take part in your family’s decision-making process and consider yourself as competent as men,” she elucidates.

Of course, gender egalitarianism cannot be achieved in one day. Society has to work harder to achieve this goal. “For example, why should you put unnecessary restrictions on a girl child. I don’t see why girls can’t laugh out loud or play with neighbourhood boys when they are young. If they have an inclination towards sports, why can’t they be encouraged to play cricket or football? When gifting toys, why should you give a ball or a bat to your son and a soft toy or a kitchen set to your daughter? It’s time we do away with these boundaries,” says this mother of a two year old who never compels her daughter to play with gender-stereotyped toys.

Crimes against women & kids

Like most, Patil is deeply worried about the increasing incidence of crimes against women and children. “Several factors like greater exposure to the Internet, TV, mobile phones, cinema and other forms of entertainment and media are responsible for the rising number of crsimes. Sexual assault cases are also about male dominance and women’s subordination. But you also can’t overlook pervert and sick minds. Or else why is a three-year-old girl getting raped?” she asks and adds, “It’s very important for men to be more respectful towards women at home. Yes, it begins there. And even schools and colleges must teach students about gender sensitivity and equality.”

Talking about the greater need for parents to be more involved in their children’s lives, she says, “Nowadays, kids in 7th or 8th standard are watching porn. As parents, we have to be more watchful and must spend time with our children.”

Patil is also going the extra mile for spreading awareness about women’s safety. Soon, she will be visiting two to three colleges every week and giving talks and sharing videos on female foeticide, women’s safety, self-defence, etc. “There has to be greater awareness about helplines too. Women themselves need to be more alert and keep defence mechanisms like chilli sprays or cell phones more handy, not buried in purses,” she says.

To curb rising crimes and violence against women, we could do with more women police officers like Patil on board.

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