SAATHI “CITIZEN CADETS”: Leveraging the power of Self Help Groups and Community Leaders to fight Gender Violence

by Sutapa Sanyal

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.44.51 PMThe Problem

Good governance involves policing of, for and by the people. With an adverse police-citizen ratio (average of just one police personnel per 1000+ citizens in UP), it becomes difficult for police personnel to look into the needs of all citizens.

The Solution

As a workable and sustainable solution for this, U.P. Police Mahila Samman Prakoshth (MSP) has started a program called SAATHI-“CITIZEN CADETS” which has the USP of SMART, proactive, gender-sensitive community-policing.

The program works towards building citizenship competencies and responsible leadership among the “Citizen Cadets” by channelising informal leadership skills, who then go on to take part in community engagement within the framework of a more participative form of democracy.

The “Citizen Cadets” or “Saathi” are designated to act as a link between the public and the district police regarding gender-related problems of the areas which they represent, with the Prakoshth serving as a bridge between the Citizen Cadet and the concerned police station.

This is one reason why this program is absolutely voluntary in nature with no remuneration and marks a paradigm shift from traditional reactive policing to a more cost-effective, responsive and   participative strategy of policing. The core philosophy behind this program is that of selfless service to the Community. Accordingly, the Prakoshth reserves the right to disqualify suomoto any Citizen Cadet who uses her position for personal gains or makes an attempt to take law in her own hands.

The program further stands validated since the WCD ministry has also asked the States to consider implementing the Central Government scheme of Mahila Police Volunteers on a similar note.

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The Concept

There are two categories of Citizen Cadets – Citizen Cadet (Mentors) who are accomplished women in various professions above the age of twenty and Citizen Cadet (Volunteers) which is open to any woman above the age of twenty years who has shown some leadership qualities within her collective.

The program draws heavily on the NSS and NCC students in the various colleges. The program targets the goal of 10 citizen cadets per thana, in all the 1500 thanas of U.P. in the first phase of its implementation.

All Citizen Cadets would receive an identity-card, a badge and a cap and would attend the monthly meetings of the police station concerned. As an incentive, significant contributions by Citizen Cadets will be recognized by the district authorities and outstanding ones would be annually felicitated at the State level.

The Citizen Cadet (Volunteer) will also receive counselling, capacity-building training and skill-development.

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The Process

These Citizen Cadets form a volunteer group of women initially (to be extended to involve men at a later stage), in both rural and urban areas with the following duties:

  • To act like the eyes and ears of the geographical/thana areas they represent, specially with reference to cases of gender-based violence, like domestic violence and human trafficking (being locals, they have fair knowledge about the arrival and scouting of women and children by strangers)
  • To act as change agents who would enlighten their collectives about the laws of the land related to women and children under our ADHIKAAR program
  • To spread awareness about the use of RTI and RTE for women and child-related issues
  • To spread knowledge about the online Portal VIKALP being run by MSP,
  • To spread awareness about the schemes of the Central and State governments regarding women and children
  • To draw the attention of district authorities to any other gender-related issue (provision of toilets or street-lighting included) pertaining to the collectives they represent.
  • To establish dialogues with schoolchildren under the RU-BA-RU program of MSP

Other Linkages

Citizen Cadets will be given training regarding the various laws related to women and children. Tie- up with NSDC and State Skill-development Mission is proposed to train the volunteers in one skill of their choice in the process of empowering them economically. This would also act as an incentive for their voluntary service.

Financial Cost

The cost is nominal. Only the cost of printing the forms, caps, badges and I –cards.