• Her Udaan: How CID Inspector Asha Korke dealt with bias to shine on

    Asha Korke was inspired by the 1980s TV serial Udaan where a female police officer takes the lead and breaks gender stereotypes of India’s police force. Korke wanted to be Kavita Choudhary, the protagonist. She told her father who supported her dream and turned it into a mission. Today she is Senior Inspector with the Crime Branch in Mumbai. Not without challenges. Not without struggles. Not without biases through that journey. But she overcame each of those hurdles with firmness and grace. Korke is speaking to SheThePeople’s Sakshi Sirari.

    On Her Inspirations

    When I was in college, I watched this show on TV called Udaan, watching which I decided that I wanted to be a police officer. My father guided me, and I cleared the examinations for the position of an inspector. Asha’s was the first batch in 1998 when men and women underwent the same exam. Before this, there was a separate rank list for men and women. All procedures of selection and training were also distinct. But since 1998, women have had the same intensity in their already rigorous training programs. “We were never excused on grounds of being women”, she says. “We were equal to men in all aspects.”

    Her Udaan: How CID Inspector Asha Korke dealt with bias to shine on

    On The Biases in the 1990s

    Recounting her first day of duty as a probationary sub-inspector, she shares what one of the male officers said to her, “You are a lady, go to the ladies room and sit there.”  She couldn’t believe the absurdity of it, since she had “just come off training and was young, hot –headed and full of passion”. This coupled with the fact that a man was showing her down, really infuriated her, though she says she controlled a major part of it. “I also felt the instinctive desire to say something; otherwise this was to continue”.  The same day she made it clear to him that she wasn’t here to sit in the ladies room. She put the message across in clear terms, saying, “We have gone through training in order to work, and hence we will stay at the station house and learn whatever we can as per our probationary program”.

    “This was my first experience on the first day at work”, she exclaims.

    One of my male seniors told me, “You are a lady, go to the ladies room and sit there.” 

    Male Officers Take Time To Adjust

    She reckons that this could also be because of the fact that people weren’t used to seeing many female police officers back in the day. There was only one female police officer at the station at the time, and she was someone who had worked at the airport security almost all her life, and she didn’t know much about the working system of police stations. Soon, the senior officials realized that our batch was here to work and will work.

    Women Cops Are Hardworking

    Korke believes that women cops handle all sorts of cases and that their work is as much as the men. “Sometimes, we also have to help our male colleagues when they are dealing with cases involving female perpetrators or victims”, she tells us.

    Identifying that one thing common about women perpetrators, she believes that they are very hard to get to confess. For example, in one of the cases solved by her team, there was a girl who did an accounts fraud just to splurge with her boyfriend, but wouldn’t confess to her crime despite all evidence against her. In another narcotics case, there was a woman who just wouldn’t accept that she was carrying drugs, until she was caught red-handed.

    In her message to the youth of the country, she says, “If you want to work hard and have variety at work, show your skill not only at work but push and pull with work life balance, you should definitely come join the police force. I see that the youngsters today are very keen on doing social work. I say that the police force is the best form of social work. We work 12 hours a day helping people and the government pays us for it. Other social work jobs as we all know aren’t very well paying. In police, you get to be the point of contact of people from all classes and walks of life- from huts to high profile cases. Not many people know, but many a time policemen go out of their way to perform the last rites of unattended dead bodies.”

    One of her best cases has been getting a staff member of IIT convicted for sexual assault on PhD students, twice! Once at the Sessions court and the second time at High court. The entire world’s eyes are on IIT, and hence everyone usually avoids talking about it, which is why getting the lab assistant convicted was one of the best achievements of for her career.

    This isn’t the only facet to her story. She also has a son; who is in class 11 right now. She warns you- there are problems that will come your way, but you have to solve them, since you are willingly making the decision to work. “I’ve worked with passion, which is why I get to work on certain high profile cases as well”. She signs off, driving to a nearby village to chase a crime suspect.

    Before leaving, she shares with us an important statistic found in a study conducted by American company McKinsey in Mumbai police as per senior’s guidelines. It revealed that the “women in Mumbai police are far more efficient and dedicated that their male counterparts, who perform it more like a duty”.

    See Marathi excerpt below

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