IG Gurpreet Deo, a lady IPS officer of the Punjab Police, demonstrated unusual forthrightness and boldness on International Women’s Day in stating that the problem of sexual harassment within the force is serious. The matter would have passed without much notice had there not been a subsequent denial from the officer herself.
The turnaround, in fact, served to underscore the bravery of the first act of honest revelation. It proved just what she had said on the sidelines of a function in Ludhiana while talking to a small group of journalists: “Women [in the police] need to be made aware and given confidence so that they are able to lodge complaints…. The problem [in the department] is very widespread. If we shut our eyes, we may declare all is well. But as a woman police officer, I am aware of the problem of sexual harassment. Women constables as well as officers don’t have the confidence because they don’t trust their complaints would be redressed.”
Blaming the police for the behaviour of its personnel would be giving oneself an easy excuse to escape responsibility. The police, or any one social group, is never very different from society at large. And Punjab is passing through a particularly distasteful civilisational phase. A distinctly pointless existence is evident on the faces of youth in the state, even if they are not to blame for their circumstance. The awful lyrics of contemporary Punjabi music — wrongly ascribed to Punjabi culture — are now legend.
What the police need to work on is a robust internal grievance redress mechanism, which is needed equally for women and men. Currently the reflex action in the service is to deny a problem. As has been highlighted earlier, suicides in the force — a consequence of stress, alcoholism, corruption, et al — are passed off as accidental gunshots. That only causes the problems to fester and grow.