With over three decades in the Delhi Police under her belt, Devki Joshi now manages an all-woman fleet of emergency response vans.
Parenting experience can be a valuable asset in police work, and as the mother of three children, with 32 years in the Delhi Police, Sub-Inspector Devki Joshi has ample expertise in both. As the nodal officer for the force’s all-woman PCR team, she ends up using both as well.
Policewomen are sometimes part of the three-member teams in Police Control Room vans, which are the first respondents to the scene of an emergency. However, they are not typically associated with this highly visible branch of the constabulary. So last year, as part of its drive to combat violence against women, the Delhi Police flagged off an initiative to train and staff five vans in the New Delhi zone with all-women teams.
In the months leading up to the September launch, a select group of policewomen were chosen and trained for the task. They buffed up on arms and ammunitions training and learned hand-to-hand combat. Some learned to drive and got licences. But beyond these skills, the team needed someone to bridge the gap between them and their male superiors.
Devki Joshi was a natural choice. She had enlisted at age 19, and was in the batch of 1985, when the Delhi Police was pushing to add to the handful of women on its rolls. Leaving her an infant daughter at home, Devki worked first on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s security detail, then went on to do every kind of police duty. In Chandni Chowk, she investigated rape and molestation cases. She worked in the Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office in stations across the city, and in the Police Control Room. Some of her dowry cases are still in the courts.
Meanwhile, she raised her children, waking up at 4am, feeding the family, going to work, and returning late at night. “It was difficult,” she says, “but I kept on, because I chose this job. I chose it myself, and that’s what gave me the strength to see it through.”
With improved leave policies in place, things have improved somewhat for Delhi’s policewomen. Devki’s superior, Assistant Commissioner Surjit Malik, has recently been pushing for a crèche facility using police resources, such as pregnant officers on light duty as staff. With a 33 per cent quota for women in the Delhi Police announced in 2015, he hopes such measures will be adopted to meet the challenges of the future.
For now, the 51-year-old Devki handles any issues that come up with sensitive efficiency. Rakesh Bala, a member of her team, tells us that “whether it’s a problem at home, or with a vehicle, she doesn’t need to take it to a senior officer—she sorts it out at her level. She understands us so well that before we even say anything, she knows what we’re worried about.”
This article is part of a series of stories written by freelance journalist and editor Sonal Shah and photographed by Abhinandita Mathur on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.