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First woman DGP seeks more of her gender in police service

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SHILLONG July 7: North East’s first woman Director General of Police, Idashisha Nongrang, who recently broke the glass ceiling in a patently male bastion, displays her radiant self confidence in a men’s world but underlines the need for smart young women of Meghalaya to opt for joining the police force as in other neighbouring states.
In an exclusive interview with The Shillong Times here last week, she spoke on wide-ranging ideas including creation of an all-women battalion, lack of presence of Meghalaya women police at the national level and many more.
Reflecting on her 30-year career in the police services, Nongrang came off as an articulate no nonsense officer who has a thinking head on her broad shoulders.
As the top cop of the state, she is quite at home in a man’s world. She carries the conviction that policing cannot be a man’s job alone.
She said, “In reality, the day-to-day functioning (in police) is not much different, being a woman, but when it comes to taking decisions and ensuring that your decisions are implemented, yes, there is definitely a sense of fulfillment.”
Since assuming office in May this year, she has already started witnessing the impact of the changes she aims to implement.
Dwelling further on the perception of policing as a male-dominated field, Nongrang remarked, “In today’s world, I would not say that policing should be considered a man’s job. Women are joining the police force and other fields traditionally seen as male-dominated, such as the army.”
She encourages young girls to pursue their ambitions with dedication and consistency, noting that “nothing pays off as much as hard work”.
However, Nongrang expressed a nuanced perspective on the idea of raising an all-women battalion; pretty much different to what her other colleagues have to say.
“There are many aspects we often forget. We tend to glamorise the idea that all-women battalions will better address certain issues, but at the end of the day, we are women and different,” she said.
She further added, “For an all-women battalion to do the things that a battalion is called upon to do, there are some constraints, including the inevitability of motherhood for the majority of the force. When you raise a battalion, you get people from the same age group. As women, we have a number of obligations. Yes, we have been talking about women empowerment and gender sensitisation, but at the end of the day, we still live in a society that is very much patriarchal and still leans towards men. We have to do more, and women have other responsibilities too.”
Highlighting practical constraints such as maternity leave and societal responsibilities, she advocated for integrating women within mixed battalions where requirements can be more flexibly managed, stating that an all women’s battalion is not practical.
When asked if she ever felt handicapped as a woman in her role, Nongrang responded in denial stating, “Frankly speaking, no. Family-wise, they have always been very supportive. Whether from my in-laws or my family, there has never been an issue of me being a woman preventing me from doing something.”
Recalling the advice from her first Deputy Inspector General (DIG) when she joined the force, she shared, “There’s no question of you being a lady or a man; you are an officer, and that’s it.”
Reflecting on the recent deployment of six women police officers from the NE as the President’s inner guard at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Nongrang acknowledged the absence of representatives from Meghalaya. “This highlights the need for the younger generation to strive for such opportunities. Representation in such walks of life is very low. Given the all-India pool, we form a very minuscule part. However, I am hopeful this will change,” she concluded.

ST: How does it feel to be a top cop in a man’s world?

DGP: Actually, I have been a police officer in a man’s world for more than 30 years now, so in reality, the day-to-day functioning is not much different. But when it comes to taking decisions and ensuring that your decisions are implemented, yes, there is a sense of fulfillment in reaching a level where you can guide the activities and vision of the police, particularly the Meghalaya Police.
In that way, it feels empowering. It’s been over a month since I took charge as the DGP, and we have started to see the first few changes we’ve been trying to implement, which is satisfying.
In today’s world, I would not say that policing should be considered a man’s job. Women are joining the police force and other fields traditionally seen as male-dominated, such as the army.
My message to young girls who look up to me is that nothing pays off as much as hard work. You have to be consistent and clear about what you want to do and how you plan to achieve it.

ST: As a woman, do you feel handicapped at any time?

DGP: Frankly speaking, no. Family-wise, they have always been very supportive. Whether from my in-laws or my family, there has never been an issue of me being a woman preventing me from doing something.
I still remember what my first DIG said when I joined: “There’s no question of you being a lady or a man; you are an officer, and that’s it.”

ST: Your weekly ‘darshan time’ is a first in Meghalaya. What is the thought behind it?

DGP: Over the years, Meghalaya police, unfortunately, which I still think is a perception, because I don’t think that is the reality, that we are not very accessible, we are very distant from the people. So this is an effort to bridge that disconnect, and be better able to reach out to the people, and understand what it is about us that makes it so difficult for them to come forward and mitigate the circumstances under which we are functioning.

ST: Any plans on raising an all-women battalion?

DGP: Unlike most of my other female colleagues, I differ in my opinion on that issue. There are many aspects we often overlook. We tend to romanticize the idea that all-women battalions will better address certain issues, but ultimately, we are women and we are different.
For an all-women battalion to fulfill its designated tasks, there are certain constraints, including the unavoidable reality of motherhood for the majority of the force. When raising a battalion, you recruit individuals from the same age group.
A battalion comprises six companies, along with headquarters companies, totaling seven companies. Of these seven companies, approximately four and a half will consist of individuals from the same age group, while the remaining two and a half will serve as promotion posts, filled by experienced personnel who have already been in service. Considering the four and a half companies, that amounts to over 600 individuals. If even 50 percent of them were to go on maternity leave, there are practical issues to consider.
As women, we have a number of obligations. Yes, we have been talking about women empowerment and gender sensitization, but at the end of the day, we still live in a society that is very much patriarchal and still leans towards men. We have to do more, and women have other responsibilities too.
So, how do you juggle that, especially if it’s a battalion force? As part of the district or a mixed battalion, it is easier for the commanding officer or the supervising officer to adjust the requirements of certain sections, whether it’s 40 percent or 50 percent. You can still adjust that.

ST: Crime against women has been on the rise. Often, victims do not get justice. How do you plan to remedy the situation?

DGP: We are mandated by law to complete investigations within a specified period, and there are special judges for POCSO cases and crimes against women. We have implemented several measures, hoping they will have a short-term impact and more significant long-term effects. For instance, ensuring investigations are completed on time. Many crimes against women and children involve perpetrators known to the victims, which helps in making arrests. We now have a better-equipped Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), so reports are received earlier, within the time limits. While delays still happen, they are exceptions rather than norms.

ST: Recently, six women police officers from the North East were deployed as the President’s inner guard at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Why were none from Meghalaya considered?

DGP: This highlights the need for the younger generation to strive for such opportunities. I understand why there was no representative from Meghalaya; representation in such walks of life is very low. Given the all-India pool, we form a very minuscule part. However, I am hopeful this will change.

ST: Legal experts fear the new criminal laws might lead to police raj, as they empower IOs to register FIRs and arrest the accused. What is your take?

DGP: This perception is slightly inaccurate. We had the authority to arrest under the previous laws, subject to certain conditions, which continue under the new laws. While some additional powers have been granted, steps and procedures have also become more transparent. Everything we do now requires video evidence, whether filing an FIR, making an arrest, or conducting an inquiry.

ST: How would you ensure IOs do not overstep their boundaries or take biased actions?

DGP: This is an ongoing challenge that we will continue to address. Even under the old criminal laws, there were instances when IOs overstepped their jurisdiction. We will keep working on this issue as it arises.

ST: Do you have any plans to sensitise officers at all levels to prevent the abuse of power?

DGP: Yes, we are continuously working on sensitizing officers and ensuring they understand the limitations of their authority.

ST: The Meghalaya police have a skewed perception regarding prosecution, suffering from systematic inefficiencies and a lack of support systems. Investigations are often delayed due to additional duties. How do you plan to address this?

DGP: Our image is skewed, both negatively and positively. There are challenges, but with any new system, there will be teething problems. We need to learn and adapt. The transition period requires officers familiar with the old laws to adjust to the new ones. It is not skewed in any particular direction; it is just an adjustment phase.
I cannot tell you that we will do this and that. The new laws are such that many of them remain the same, a number of things have changed, and a number of other requirements have been put in place.
At the moment, during the transition period, we have to have people who are conversant with investigation under the old laws while they should also be getting used to those differences, those imbalances; therefore, it is not skewed in any particular direction.

ST: Police reforms and modernisation go hand in hand. What are your plans?

DGP: It is an ongoing process. There have been recommendations after recommendations. I will just leave it at that. We are still hopeful that at some point in time, the recommendations will be put into place.
Modernisation is an ongoing process, and in the world that we see now, especially when it comes to cybercrime and other aspects of white-collar crime, there is a whole different set of rules and regulations. It is a whole different ball game, so to say, modernisation has to go hand in hand with all that we are doing today.

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