Get inspired by Mahesh Bhagwat, IPS:A multi tasker with a golden heart

Being an engineer from College of Engineering Pune (COEP) – one of India’s oldest and a leading engineering college. What made you change track and opt for civil services?

After passing out in 1990 as an engineer BE (Civil), I joined an organisation by name CDSA (Centre for Development Studies and Activities) in Pune. They were having a project of western ghat development and as part of project I was stationed in backwater of Mulshi river. There were 8 villages adopted for water development. I was there for 2.5 years and during that time I came in close contact with Zilla Parishad CEO and other officers. Impressed and encouraged I went to State Institute for Administrative Careers, Mumbai that provides assistance and coaching for candidates from Maharashtra for civil services. In 1994 I appeared for civil services with subjects Marathi literature and history and was selected in 1995 for IPS.

Marathi literature. So, did you write the UPSC exams in Marathi language?

Correct. Being from Marathi medium and working in rural area I developed lot of confidence that I can express better in Marathi. The only drawback – as resource material was in English, I spent a lot of time in translation. In 1990 Bhushan Gagrani who was 3rd topper also wrote in Marathi medium and he is sort of a role model to us as we came to know we can write civil services in Marathi and other vernacular languages.

You have mentored many successful civil aspirants. Any secrets to the mentoring?

In 1992-94 when I was preparing for civil services as well as working, I got good guidance from many mentors who used to help me in Pune and Mumbai. Then I thought of giving back to society. Even before my selection I used to teach in study circle in Pune to aspirants for PSI, MPSC – social reformers of Maharashtra is subject of expertise. I was having that aptitude for teaching and we used to also take mock interviews. So that background helped me and later I continued mentoring.

Earlier the reach was very limited. But the arrival of WhatsApp in 2015 changed the scenario as in one group you can have 256 students. So, I started exploring the opportunity to mentor students across the country and not limited to civil services but also forest services, ITBP, CISF, BSF etc. Right now, I am running 7 groups for different exams. The rate of success has steadily risen and today I take great pride in saying that I successfully guided more than 800 civil service aspirants and other exams.

UPSC is probably one of the most difficult exams in India and 800 successful is superb. How do you get time?

It’s my passion and I have learned to balance profession and passion. Last year alone out of 850 selected in country 135 were mentored by me. I believe everyone should spare some time to pursue ones passion.

There are many comments on bureaucracy being a pawn in the hand of politicians and there’s a need for an overhaul.

Basically, we are working in an elected democratic form of government. If there’s any illegal or unconstitutional kind of thing, we definitely are putting our foot down as we are accountable to the constitution of India. When your dos and don’ts are clear no one will ask you undue favours.

On the other hand, we do give an emphatic hearing to them also. People come to them with a lot of hope. Directly saying no to them – they may not like it so we buy some time and then we can explain if it’s possible or not or how it can be done within the framework. If explained logically and clearly, they understand.

Your fight against human trafficking is well known globally. Can you through light on your innovative techniques and approach to investigating cases?

Human trafficking is second most organised crime in the world, after drugs. Trafficking can be for different purposes – sex, forced labour, organ trade, adoption. It is an organised crime and we have to go to the root and from source to destination. Source is from where the supply is going on and destination where exploitation is going on. We have to control this organised crime.

What we do in trafficking cases especially sex trafficking – under the existing laws we have preventive detention act where a person from an organised syndicate can be detained for one year by the CP or collector of the district. During this period, we do the investigations and file chargesheet and in the fast track court we try to make sure they get convicted. At the same time, we are also providing rehabilitation, restoration to the victims through NGOs.

In Hyderabad we have anti trafficking NGO devoted exclusively to eradicating forced prostitution and sex trafficking. It’s headed by Padma Shri Sunitha Krishnan. Then there’s the Bachpan Bachao Andolan headed by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi that focuses on ending bonded labour, child labour and human trafficking and also helping them in rehabilitation and education.

We also do interstate and inter country coordination especially Bangladesh and African countries. We contact the consulate so that they can be repatriated to their home country.

Any particular SOP that you would like to highlight?

Ours is two fold strategy – one is strong law enforcement against the trafficker and second is rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation of the traffic victim. Rescue protocols like victim’s identity is withheld, even from media. On the other hand, we are exposing the trafficker as well as the customer to the media.

I have used legal provisions to close sites where human trafficking is known to occur e.g., brothels, hotels and residential apartments as well as crackdowns on labour trafficking.

What about the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes Award by the US state department?

Yes, I have been conferred with the award in 2017. I was recognised for my vital role in elevating human trafficking as a government priority, and my innovative approach to investigating cases and dismantling trafficking operations.

I have also started a school programme for migrant children of Odia brick kiln workers to prevent them from working as child labourers in Telangana. Almost 1000 children have received education in their native language as teachers were brought from Odisha. The children were deprived of education and health care and today an NGO continues to track the children on return to their home state.

What were the major threats during pandemic?

We meticulously followed all safety protocols from day one. Our priority was to keep ourselves safe as along with the health department we were always on the front line making ourselves equally vulnerable. Enforcing the lockdown, 24/7 police force was at check posts, helping migrants reach their homes was a priority. With this scenario police were exposed a lot and many of my subordinates including me (almost 2000) got affected. I am happy to tell you that we conquered and all of us came out with flying colours. This was mainly due to some SOPs that we followed from the beginning.

SOP in our Commissionerate has become the pilot for entire state of Telengana. SOP was if any one of us tested +ve he was given 14 days duty off. Within 24 hours package of 7 medicines prescribed by ICMR will reach his house along with 1kg dry fruit packet. Rs. 5000 was sent to his bank account for any emergency expenses. Then we also had a zoom call with the patient + doctors, enquiring about his health and also highlighting dos and don’ts during quarantine.

A what’sApp group was formed for these +ve patients where we are giving them a chart on activities they can do from morning to evening, videos of yoga, pranayama etc. People who get tested -ve also post their experiences and how they overcame. This encourages those who are +ve. Due to these SOPs we have almost zero deaths.

During this pandemic police services have become very valuable. I already mentioned migrants, we had medical camps, poor people suffering due to unemployment we distributed groceries with the help of philanthropists, pregnant women were given nutritious diet was organised. Thanks to all this the police has got a good name.

And how prepared are the police forces for a probable third wave?

Compared to earlier we are better prepared due to our earlier experiences. Enforcement is still going on. Maintaining social distance, compulsory wearing of mask, sanitising of hands, avoiding large gatherings etc. Here a two-fold strategy – awareness and enforcement against the violator.

During second wave we found oxygen shortage at some hospitals. So now we have developed our own oxygen cylinder bank. And even 100 bedded hospital with support from IT companies. Infact Infosys have installed a 500-cylinder capacity plant (per day) for our 100 bedded hospital. All this will definitely help us if and when third wave comes.

On a personal front how do you relax, maintain yourself and even have time for your family?

Sunday we all will be at home until and unless there’s an emergency. Then friends of course – college, school, literary group, my mentoring, Marathi dramas, cultural activity etc. All this helps me to remain relaxed and positive.

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