Shuttling between caring for your newborn and managing your career can be immensely challenging. Especially when you work in the police force.
While the maternity leave period for women police personnel is six months, the Rachakonda Commissionerate realised how it was not enough for early child care.
To alleviate the pressure on new mothers who double up as women constables and officers, the Saroornagar Police Station in Telangana’s Rachakonda set up a crèche for the tiny tots of women cops.
Conceptualised by the Rachakonda Commissioner of Police, IPS Mahesh Bhagwat, and executed by ACP Shilpavalee, the initiative was named ‘We Care’. It is presently running a pilot at the Saroornagar Police Station.
In an interview with The Better India, top cop Mahesh Bhagwat revealed how the idea to start the crèche came to him after the picture of a woman police personnel working with her baby on the desk went viral on social media.
“The picture of the woman constable from the Kotwali Police Station of Jhansi moved me. We realised how difficult it was for our women employees to juggle their motherly responsibilities as well as tend to work. While most new mothers are at work, emotionally, they are constantly worried about their wards. And so, we decided to start the first crèche facility on an experimental basis in the Saroornagar Police Station where over 90 per cent of the staff are women employees.”
Magsaysay and Padmashree awardee Prof Shantha Sinha who was formerly the Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) inaugurated the crèche and lauded the move.
As per the Maternity Benefit Act of 2017, a workplace with more than 50 employees is bound by law to have a crèche facility in its vicinity, where women employees should be allowed to visit their wards at least four times a day.
The day of the inauguration saw a mixed response from the women personnel. While some questioned why the move hadn’t happened sooner, others were overwhelmed and happy.
One of the lady constables spoke about how she was struggling with raising her twins and her duty at the station and that the step has been a blessing. Another shared how the birth of her child had made her switch from traffic duty to lighter duties. But it will now be easier for her to aim for a work-life balance.
Another constable who lives 50 km away from the station in a tribal neighbourhood added how she had to leave her three-year-old daughter with her relatives and constantly follow up with them via calls till she reached home late at night.
But now, with the crèche coming up, she can bring her daughter with her.
As the crèche has been launched as a welfare measure, it will be freely available to the women police personnel, and all the costs will be borne by the authorities.
Currently, the police station has four workers taking care of the crèche. While two are constables, the others are outsourced.
Bhagwat added how the crèche has about five to six children who are being monitored every day and that the number is likely to increase.
“We aim to set up these crèches in all police stations in a phased manner first at the zonal level, and later, at the divisional level,” he said.
The Rachakonda Commissionerate is also working on increasing the recruitment of women in all police stations to 33%.
In his final message, the top cop says, “It is time we give importance to the work-life balance of our employees. It is only when we go the extra mile and take care of their emotional needs, that they will be able to rise at every occasion and deliver more than 100 per cent.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)