Armed with 9mm pistols, batons and walkie-talkies, and riding their scooters, 20 woman commandos constitute the Woman Armed Special Protection Squads (WASPS) in SAS Nagar. On October 28, when a group of youths exchanged blows and flashed swords in a clash outside the government college in SAS Nagar, it was two woman commandos posted near the college who took charge and saved the situation turning ugly.
Having chased down the youths, the commandos overpowered the youths and apprehended them.
They are on the job from 9am to 5.30pm. With no woman police officer on a top rank in SAS Nagar, Riar, a male officer, is overall head of WASPS. Head constable Paramjeet Kaur is in-charge on the ground for WASPS. She says calls to the woman helpline (1091) are directed to them, but only 10% turn into police cases while in most cases the victims only need advice.
However, as these commandos report on duty at 9am and break for lunch for about 30 minutes and are relieved from duty at 5.30pm, the arrangement makes them a subject of envy for colleagues who work in night shifts too.
Panchkula has 50 trained woman commandos posted at various points. They have specifically been working on interaction with female students, educating them about how to deal with difficult situations.
First case: When WASPS helped in marriage
The Woman Armed Special Protection Squads (WASPS) in SAS Nagar were launched by Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal in April after a pilot project in Bathinda. Paramjeet Kaur, the head constable in-charge of the commandos, recalls the first case: "The first call we received was from a young woman who alleged that her family was not allowing her to marry her boyfriend, and beat her up regularly. As the women commandos reached the spot, the family had locked the girl inside a room after she was found talking to her boyfriend on a mobile phone. She was rescued, and her parents also agreed eventually, so we got her married to her boyfriend."
All-woman police station in SAS Nagar
Keeping in view the apprehension and hesitation among women to walk into police stations, SAS Nagar has set up an all-woman police station in Phase 7. Mostly having women staff, it has one or two males. "We have recently started operations. As of now we do not register FIRs but get cases referred from various police stations. Most of the complaints are pertaining to domestic discord, and we do counselling at the police station," said Tarsem Kaur, the ASI posted at the police station.