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Footslog no more?

Editorial |

Policewomen in Tamil Nadu could soon be the envy of their counterparts across the country ~ if plans materialise they could soon be issued footwear specially designed for their comfort. The state administration has commissioned the Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI) to come up with a design catering to the feet of women: it has long been a practice to issue women cops footwear of the same pattern as men, but comfort was not given much consideration. The CFTI has proposed polyurethane soles and silicone gel insoles, and suggested a “slip on” pattern as opposed to the traditional laces. That would make for lightweight, flexible footwear. The official handling the project said “the shoes will be designed taking into account the nature of work and ergonomics”, and Rs 1.2 crore has been sanctioned for setting up a production unit by the prison industry wing of the state government ~ traditionally has police footwear been supplied by the leather factory in Vellore’s central prison. Tamil Nadu will be the first state to have custom-designed footwear for its policewomen: according to the national Bureau of Police Research & Development, the BSF and the police departments of Delhi, Arunachal, and Himachal issue the same footwear to men and women, while Kerala and Maharashtra provide funds to their women cops for personal purchases. There is, however, no indication of whether the current “difficulties” of the leather industry, courtesy politically-patronised cow vigilantes, might necessitate experimenting with synthetic alternatives.

Welcome though the Tamil Nadu initiative is, it does add another chapter to the long tale of police neglect, and the inherent gender-bias in the administrative machinery. There are no special lathis earmarked for use by women (it would be silly to believe that the need for them to use “weaponry” would never arise), even their uniforms are only slightly modified versions of the tunics and trousers of the men. The role women police are playing is increasing substantially, in both the Central and state forces, so surely they deserve focused attention. Funnily enough, though there have been vociferous demands for gender equality in all spheres little has been heard of a demand for suitable uniforms for women in uniform ~ military or police. With a “modern” woman now heading the textiles ministry (surely Smriti Irani will not be irked by that description) it is time for leading fashion designers to be more actively involved in re-working uniforms and making them more suitable for feminine wear. This has been done by the forces in many developed countries, indeed even at the risk of being accused of an MCP-streak it must be said that some of them look decidedly ‘chic’. Why should India’s women in uniform suffer by comparison? Let Modi sarkar do what Indira’s government did not.