Drug abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence—these are three crimes that most people are too scared to report, and the ones that have the most far-reaching effects. Imagine being scared all the time or walking on the street, terrified for your life, with your mobile phone clutched tightly and keys between your fingers. Now, imagine living in fright for almost the entirety of your day!
IPS officer Atul V Kulkarni, Assistant Superintendent (ASP) in Bhayandar Thane, realised that there was an urgent need to bridge the gap between the public and the police. The police could not be stationed on every street, or every house all the time to track such illegal and dangerous activities.
However, it is a known fact that the public also has reservations about approaching the police. At times it is fear that their complaints will not be heard, or that they will be ill-treated.
On the other hand, for the police, the need to reach the people who live suppressed lives at home and have no safe way of even reaching their nearest police station is of utmost importance.
The IPS officer wondered if the citizens could not come to the police, why couldn’t the police go to them instead? He thus established two divisions for the convenience of the public—a Drug Cell and a women’s cell called the Bharosa (Trust) Cell.
Speaking to The Better India, ASP Kulkarni said, “We established a triple action plan to tackle the drug abuse problem in the city. The first step was to create awareness through school rallies, exhibitions, street plays, flash mobs, society meetings etc. We also started a helpline number that people can call, and our team will reach the location within 10-15 minutes!”
Thanks to these efforts, within six months, the Thane police has reached out to about 20,500 people!
The next step was to take action and arrest drug peddlers as soon as the police got intel about such activity.
But the IPS officer realised that it wasn’t enough, and they had to step out of their set duties and see the problem to the end.
“We have also started counselling sessions. This is a completely community-based initiative. Here we have involved doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, NGO and the media. We have seen a good success rate since 20 people from our rehabilitation centre have started their own businesses. We also help them get employment, so they have a less chance of going back to doing drugs,” he told TBI.
The APS is confident that they stay involved in the process until drug addicts come out of it completely.
“Taking inspiration from the same angle, we have also established Bharosa (Trust) cells for women,” the IPS officer told TBI adding that “Whatever complaints women have about family issues, harassment related to a girl child, sexual assault are addressed here.”
One of the most important initiatives by the Thane police was to go to the women rather than waiting for women to approach them.
In several instances, even though women know in their hearts that they are a victim to abuse, they believe that this is how things are supposed to be and that there’s no option but to keep mum.
“There are quarrels in housing societies, with neighbours, when children are playing together. And at times, things escalate to an unfortunate level. We address all such issues related to women under the Bharosa cell. Now, some women approach us directly at the station. But for those who are unable to do so, we have established the Nirbhaya Pathaks—vans that patrol streets and housing societies. Women officers in civil clothes drive around in these vans and keep an eye out for sexual predators, instances of ragging etc.”
But what truly stands out as here is the IPS officer’s idea which helps protect young girls.
“We have installed complaint boxes in schools in Thane. Girls can give anonymous complaints there. Every Monday, a police officer takes out the complaint chits, in front of the principal, and then we address them one by one,” says APS Kulkarni. This way, girls who have been facing abuse either in schools or their homes can safely issue complaints to the police. The police, through the principal and teachers, who know the children personally can approach the children and solve their issues.
Through the Bharosa cells, they have also made provisions for friends to file complaints on behalf of the victims. Apart from this, Whatsapp complaint provisions and a new helpline number (which is set to be out on 15 August) are other initiatives taken by the Thane police to tackle women’s issues in the city.
Initiatives like these serve as a reminder that the police are there to help us. Maybe it is fear or prejudice that stops you from approaching the police, but IPS officers like Atul Kulkarni and his team have been a constant reminder that their motto “To protect good and punish evil” will always be upheld.