DCP Office, Outer District, Delhi. Time: 6.30pm.
A woman strides into a room full of men in uniform, who snap to attention and salute smartly. Meet Chhaya Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (outer), Delhi, who has brought a semblance of security in Delhi's largest and most crime-prone district.
Not even a year into her tenure, the Capital's wild outback has seen a sharp dip in crime, especially riots. With at least 30 local gangs getting busted every week, Sharma has earned the sobriquet of 'gangster DCP' from her boss.
Cops don't come tougher than Sharma, the seniormost of three women IPS officers currently serving in the Delhi Police. Her 14-year-long service has been, admittedly, riddled with irony - much like the Delhi girl's decision to join the police in the first place.
Her cargo-shipping business had acquired an annual turnover of Rs. 4 crore in three years before her IPS dreams came true. "My dad, who used to work for a private airline, always wanted me to give my civil service exams. So, I decided to give it a shot," she said. Two years after she did her BA in Economics from Daulat Ram College in 1993, Sharma found her name on the coveted list of successful IAS candidates.
In nearly a decade-and-a-half since then, khaki has become her second skin. She has faced gangsters and irate villagers with equal ease. Her first tryst with a faceless, incited mob was on the East Coast in her first posting as senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Law and Order at Puducherry in 2007.
"There were about a thousand of them at seven places. Of course, I was nervous. But I knew I had a job to do. When we reached the first blockade, I just got out of the car and charged towards them. The mob had pushed women to the front so that the police would restrain them, and here was a woman police officer charging at them at the head of a team of men. So, instead of resisting, they just gave way. We cleared seven blockades, one by one, in 40 minutes," Sharma said.
"I've learnt it is either your soft skills or a keen sense of conflict resolution -both of which, in my view, women are abundantly endowed with - that are the key elements when it comes to maintaining law and order," said Sharma, who is keen on her eight-year-old daughter Vanya following in her footsteps.
"Chhaya is one of the most outstanding officers to have ever served in Delhi. She's a good leader and doesn't take no for an answer. That is probably why most cases reported to her reach their lawful and logical conclusion," said Delhi Police Commissioner BK Gupta.
And Sharma has statistics to back her near impeccable record. Delhi Police records show that 15,140 cases were registered in the outer district in 2009, and 14,495 were reported in 2010. Under her, the percentage of heinous crimes solved shot up to 87%, while 91% of all robbery cases have been solved. All registered cases of kidnapping, rioting and dacoity too have been solved.
"In my profession, being a woman is not a handicap. In fact, complainants find it easier to confide in me than in my male colleagues. Women are better at manpower management and conflict resolution. If my hearing people out allays their fears or prevents a crime, my job is done. As an incentive, I get to sleep better at night," she said.
That she's good at manpower management becomes apparent when you talk to her subordinates. "She never issues orders like most IPS officers do. She just gives us the right advice at the right time," says a subordinate.