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Upping women and children’s safety under Amma Patrol’s watchful eye
Amma Patrol has increased access to police officers and they are also involved in interacting with the women and children in various parts of the city to create awareness.
It is 8 am and inspector Josphine Lourd Mary of the All-Women Police Station (AWPS) in T Nagar gives out instructions to her team of policewomen as to where the brand-new Amma Patrol vehicle should do the rounds for the day and carry out awareness programmes for women and children on sexual abuse, besides educating them on how to approach the police and to let know how they are always there to reach out to the victims.
This is a glimpse into the major roles of the team in Amma Patrol vehicles–the Toyota Innova Crysta SUVs equipped with GPS and other advanced facilities that were procured at a cost of Rs 7.5 crore from the Nirbhaya funds–ever since the vehicles were handed over to all 35 AWPS in the city by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on August 26 this year. The patrol vehicles also visit schools, colleges and other public places where they interact with women of all ages and assure them of the vehicle having been introduced to ensure their safety.
Acting according to the inspector’s instructions, the Amma Patrol vehicle painted in pink-white scheme with women and child helpline numbers on the side panels, reaches the police booth under the flyover at the intersection of North Usman Road and Duraisamy Road in T Nagar. “Since the GPS in the vehicle is switched on, higher officers can directly check its location and our activities will be directly live-streamed to the control room and to officials,” said Usha, a head constable at the T Nagar All-Women Police Station. She has been deputed along with her colleague, Devasena, of the same rank and driver Stephan for the day’s patrol. Each All-Women Police Station also shares their activities captured as photos in the WhatsApp group for Investigative Units for Crime against Women (IUCAW).
Around 10 am, the patrol team spots a group of students from MOP Vaishnav College for Women passing by and invite them for a small talk. They enquire whether the students have heard of Amma Patrol and get into explaining its functions after getting mixed response. “I have heard about it, but am not sure of its functions,” one of the students said. Understanding the students to not be fully knowledgeable on women and child helplines, the two police constables explain how using the helplines will help them reach out to the all-women police directly and how they would then rush to the spot in the Amma Patrol vehicle and address their problems. Impressed, one of the students then ask if they can report harassment faced while commuting in MTC buses too. The personnel, even while noting down the bus route number the student avails for commute as a precautionary measure, asked her to dial the helpline so that the patrol vehicle from the nearest AWPS would reach the location for help.
After the college students leave, the head constable points out to how the team visits different spots in the city every day and address as many women and children as possible. “T Nagar, apart from being a commercial hub, is also a place with a number of schools. So, school children are the main focus here and then comes the women who work in various shops in the locality. In big shops, the women employees are hired from various districts and are given food and accommodation in their workplaces itself. They go through a lot as they are away from their hometown and family members.
They would not know anybody here in case of a problem and fear for their safety. So, we meet them in their workplaces and encourage them to report via the helpline or the All-Women Police Station directly if they have any grievances. Many of them have noted the numbers,” she said. A day before, the team had visited a women’s hostel in Kodambakkam, considering both employed women and college students staying in such places. Besides, Mambalam railway station, T Nagar bus terminus and temples are some of the places where the Amma Patrol vehicles are routinely stationed for better visibility among the public.
Inspector Josphine Mary said that as the patrol vehicle stands out in the crowd, people immediately recognise it and after the police address the women, many even save the helpline numbers in their mobile phones, she added. Recollecting how it helped in receiving an alert of a schoolchild facing abuse from a neighbour every day in the locality, the inspector said, “As the girl heads to school, the accused would call her and misbehave. A passer-by noticed it and alerted the police station. Later, we sent an informer to identify the person and he was caught red-handed.”
Later around 12.15 pm, the Amma Patrol vehicle changes its spot and stationed itself near the Shri Shankarlal Sundarbai Shasun Jain college for women in T Nagar. As the students there upon nearing the end of classes were getting ready to leave, the patrol vehicle entered the premises and the personnel quickly engaged in a chat with them. Besides highlighting the need and how the students can reach out to them when in distress, they were also asked to report on any child abuse incident they come across and also were advised to use their mobile phones wisely.
More than the women, it is the children who are said to be more receptive to the Amma Patrol campaigns as they are found to be aware of the patrol serving exclusively to them and that they should dial 1091 were they to suffer any indecent behaviour from strangers. “We visit boys’ schools as well as they too undergo harassment,” said Devasena.
Another woman inspector, on condition of anonymity, said that their responsibility had increased manifold after all the All-Women Police Stations were shifted to the control of the newly-formed IUCAW with an ADGP as its State head and a Deputy Commissioner for Chennai city. “Until recently, it was just looking into cases of child and domestic abuse. But of late, we have been meeting women from all walks of life and listen to their grievances and ask them to approach us for any help. The job is so satisfying now,” the inspector said.
The Deputy Commissioner of IUCAW-Chennai H Jayalakshmi said that the wing has conducted about 600 awareness programmes in a month. “Recently, the Royapuram All-Women Police Station inspector rescued a young mentally-challenged woman from the road and handed her over to a home run by an NGO. Similarly, the Pulianthope AWPS inspector helped a Class 12 girl who could not continue her education to get admission to the Kannikapuram higher secondary school.
The Tiruvottiyur team rescued an 86-year-old woman who went missing and reunited her with family, while the Ambattur police rescued a boy from Bihar and admitted him at a home for children in Shenoy Nagar. These are some of the works the All-Women Police Stations have managed to carry out within a month and they have started functioning like mobile police stations,” said the officer and added that the drive would continue in the coming days.