In training now, Mumbaiís first batch of women commandos
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In between the whoosh of fast moving limbs and the grunts of physical effort and pain, a solitary male voice says again and again in a tone halfway between encouraging and chiding, "Takat lava, madam (Stronger, madam)". Police naik Ravindra Padwal, a trained commando, taps on the wrist of a woman constable, urging her to break her 13-year service slouch, bend forward and lock her hands tightly against an opponent.
Twenty-four women are exercising in drill formation, listening to and repeating counts in Japanese. There are others, divided into batches, based on their capabilities and training experience. Padwal moves from the front row to the last, barking out instructions. "Look straight at your opponent. Game dimaag cha ahe (It's a game of the mind)".
Mumbai Police hopes its planned martial arts exercise, an initiative of the East Region, will serve as a fruitful pilot project to get women to the forefront of security operations.
Forty-three women personnel have been assembling for training on a hillock inside Bhabha Atomic Research Centre at the crack of dawn since Saturday.
The death of the Delhi gangrape victim in Singapore has served to underscore the need for Mumbai Police to have its first batch of women commandos ó "mentally agile" women, deployed outside malls, colleges and schools to check sexual harassment, acid attacks and other crimes against women.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Didar Singh, 58 and a half-marathoner, stresses on "mental attitude" along with physical fitness. For the last two days, he has been giving "wake up calls" to the batch, ensuring it is "fit and ready". The target for the women is to run 4 km in 22 minutes, the standard set by their male counterparts. On Monday, most of them were at 28 minutes.
"Running is to shake them up and improve their mental agility," Quaiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police, (East Region), said. "Running is not just stamina, it's very liberating. It opens them up."