Formed to curb crimes against women on the city streets on July 8, 2015, by then Pune Police Commissioner K K Pathak, the ‘Damini Squad’ has completed four years of service this week.
Clad in ‘commando uniforms’ and comprising 33 women cops, named as ‘Damini Marshals’, the squad has turned out to be an effective force in helping girls and women in distress on streets and other public places.
This year so far, the squad has taken action against more than 225 persons under sections of the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act and about 48 persons under the Bombay Police (BP) Act. Most of the suspects included those found chasing college girls or women. The squad has also lodged 97 non-cognizable offences so far this year against persons harassing girls and women going to their educational institutes or workplaces.
In 2018, the Damini Squad had taken action against 569 persons under the MV Act and 85 persons under the BP Act and lodged about 75 non-cognizable offences against persons found harassing women. In 2017, the squad took action against 88 persons under the MV Act and booked another 44 persons under the BP Act along with lodging 24 non-cognizable offences against those found troubling women on streets.
Besides action against miscreants, the Damini Marshals have also created awareness among school and college-going girls and women working with private companies by holding over 140 workshops for them this year and another 134 last year.
The squad also imparted self-defence training and created awareness among school girls on “good touch and bad touch” through sessions organised in various schools in the city.
Part of the Pune City Police Crime Branch, the Damini Squad is attached to the Bharosa Cell, headed by Senior Inspector Vijaya Karande. It also responds to calls made on the 1091 helpline for women. Among the 33 women cops in the squad, three are deployed at the Bharosa Cell, and the remaining 30 are divided into 15 beat marshal units.
“Each beat marshal comprises of two women cops on a two-wheeler and covers jurisdiction of two police stations. Accordingly, the 15 beat marshals cover jurisdiction of 30 police stations under the Pune police commissionerate. The marshals come for work around 8 am and perform duties for about 12 hours, which includes patrolling of areas around schools, colleges during opening and closing time. Patrolling around IT and other companies, malls, bus stops, gardens, markets, slums, railway stations, religious places and other spots. We keep a close watch and take action against persons found troubling women on streets,” said police havaldar Pratibha Jadhav of the Damini Squad.
Among some of its notable accomplishments in the last few years, the squad had rescued a newborn girl, who was dumped in the bushes in Viman Nagar area. A minor girl, who had fled her home in Sangli to come to Pune, was held by Damini Marshals while she was sitting with her college-going boyfriend in Sarasbag. The couple was provided counseling and the minor girl was handed over to her family.
“Our squad had nabbed two women who broke a jammer applied to their two-wheeler for causing traffic rules violation. Our marshals had also nabbed two women found committing thefts during Palkhi processions in the city. A woman who was planning to commit suicide was rescued by our squad,” said Sheetal Ganage one of the marshals.
On July 8, marking the fourth foundation day of the squad, seven Damini Marshals were felicitated in the presence of Pune Police Commissioner K Venkatesham.