D ROOPA
MOUDGIL, IPS

IGP (Home Guards & Civil Defence), IN

Published Date: 31st March 2018

Open Windows | In Conversation

D ROOPA
MOUDGIL, IPS
IGP (Home Guards & Civil Defence), IN

March 31st, 2018

In a world increasingly governed by women, the first woman Indian Police Service [IPS] official from Karnataka, India, D Roopa Moudgil, dismantles the definition of an authentic hero—with her effervescence and earnestness—revealing her vulnerability and strength.

The kaleidoscope of butterflies—a rare sighting in India—that greeted me at the entrance of the Home Guards Office in Bengaluru, India, was a precursor to Inspector General of Police, D Roopa Moudgil, who soars high with her conscience, parlaying her integrity and moral courage into resurrecting society. D Roopa Moudgil, IPS, is our now and future, feminine and forceful.

As a child growing up what exposure did you have to the world beyond Davanagere?

[Laughs] This rare question makes me remember my childhood. When I was in the fourth standard—and those days there was no television; radio was everything—there was an hour-long program for children every Sunday. This program on the environment was followed by questions for children who were encouraged to send in their answers to Akashwani [The national public radio broadcaster of India].

My mother encouraged me to listen to the program and helped me with the answers, which she would then send to Akashwani. 20 to 30 children, who answered well, were selected and given a prize. The prize ceremony was held in the Bangalore Town Hall, with the Governor of Bangalore, Khurshid Alam Khan, presiding as the Chief Guest.

I received a small microscope as a prize. That was the first time I moved out of Davanagere for an achievement.

After your first taste of achievement, did you subsequently travel out of Davanagere?

Yes, I did. I participated in many district-level competitions. I went to Chitradurga [An administrative district of Karnataka state in southern India] for competitions and science seminars. I came to Bangalore during my eighth standard to attend science seminars conducted by the Vishweshwaraiah Museum—they held science seminars every year for schools and separately for collages—I participated in both levels and was selected at the district level. The other times when we came to Bangalore for science exhibitions, we stayed in Mount Carmel hostel and in a school called Mitralaya girls school. These are nice memories.

 

How did your home environment contribute to your foundation?

I grew up with working parents who were central government employees. My father was a BSNL engineer [Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, an Indian state-owned telecommunications company], and my mother was s Superintendent of Postal Services. Since it was just my sister and me, we grew up without experiencing any discrimination.

Though our progressive mother, being a working mother, couldn’t give us quantity time, she gave us quality time. And she never told me: “You are a girl, and you will grow up to be someone’s wife, someone’s bahu [Daughter-in-law], so you must learn to cook.” Even when I offered to help her, she would insist I study or prepare for the various competitions in which I was participating. This supportive attitude and progressive environment I grew up in helped me a lot.

You opted for your father’s suggestion—of joining The Union Public Service Commission [UPSC], over your mother’s advice of pursuing medicine. Why?

As a child, my first thoughts about becoming a doctor were injections, wounds, stitches, and surgery, and it didn’t appeal to me. My father’s suggestion was in line with my personality—when my father explained the roles of IAS and IPS officers, the leadership aspect was attractive.

 

How did you remain committed, from the age of eight, to your desire of becoming a civil servant?

There was nothing else that I wanted to do apart from joining the civil services. Moreover, I excelled in studies. In my tenth boards, I ranked 23rd in the state after which I immediately shifted to Arts. People said I was making a foolish decision: “The way you study, you can get an engineering or medical seat.” But my mind was not made up for engineering or medicine. Why pursue something when it holds no interest? And I ranked 43th in the UPSC Examination.

 

What factors shape your honesty and courage?

Some people are taken aback by my outspokenness. But after they come to know me, they get used to my attitude. I have been like this [Honest and courageous] from my birth. As a child, these qualities of integrity and courage are not put to the test. But I have always been outspoken. I would tell whatever I felt. I never cheated in exams, and I felt bad when I saw others’ cheating in the exams. And once or twice I have told Madam: “She has copied.”

 

[Laughter]

 

When I was being trained in the National Police Academy [NPA], the IPS trainees realised that I didn’t hesitate to put forward things to authorities. So when they wanted to bring out a matter to the authorities, they would ask me to do the needful.

How did your immediate atmosphere support your uprightness?

We face many challenges after getting into services and for that my husband has been very supportive.

 

You talk highly of your husband [Munish Moudgil, IAS]. Which of his qualities are vital for your integrity to flourish?

Integrity wise, I find my husband the best. He [Mr.Moudgil] is selfless, always working to improve the administration and society. But he is extremely shy and reserved. He doesn’t talk to too many people, and neither does he brag about his ideas or his achievements. NPA and my probation were so-so. But after getting married, my husband and I used to discuss a lot of things, and the way he takes decisions has greatly influenced me.

For example, when I gave a report—stating a VIP prisoner was given special facilities—and there was a strong rumour that money had exchanged hands for these privileges—and that action must be taken on all these jail officials—the press got wind of it. The media first went to my boss [Ex-DIG Prisons HN Satyanarayana Rao]. When I refused to speak about the incident, the media immediately went back to my boss (He used to sit in the same building.) who said there was no such incident. So the media came back to me: “Mr. Rao has rubbished your report. Do you have anything to say?” It is then that I felt I shouldn’t keep quiet because it sends a wrong signal. So I told them, without breaking any rules: “I have given a report, and I stand by my report and my findings.”

This was the time my husband gave me clarity: “What you have said is correct.”

I was asked why I was talking so much, especially in the regional channels. People who came for panel discussions said: “It was okay to give a report, but why is she speaking? It may or may not have happened. One can’t speak like this.” Others were interpreting my actions as if they were against the Government.

Again, thanks to my husband’s contribution, I was very clear about service rules. When I got a notice from the Government: “You have violated service rules. Give your explanation.” I asked them what service rules I had violated? Service rules boil down to the simple fact that we cannot criticise the government. And nowhere have I criticised Government action or Government policy. I only brought out maladministration in an organisation called prison. Many Supreme Court rulings say that bringing out maladministration is not a criticism of the Government.

I am expected to act in a manner that is accountable and transparent, and that’s what I did.

How is my action different from any other SP [Superintendents of Police] or DCP [Deputy Commissioner of Police] who speaks about crimes in his jurisdiction? Prisons were my jurisdiction, and whatever I have seen, I have reported.

 

You are fortunate to have a balanced and supportive partner.

Yes. Though I knew I was right, to have the reassurance of someone dear who is more knowledgeable and intelligent than me, gave me clarity; it was the reason I was not unnerved.

It would have been easy to change my stance; many people do it. Somebody will put something on social media, and they will criticise the government directly. I have seen officers start doing the right thing only to backtrack. For example, Durga Shakti Nagpal [An Indian bureaucrat, Uttar Pradesh cadre of the Indian Administrative Service] demolished a mosque wall. So the government immediately suspended her. But if she had acted as per law, and if she was right, she should have fought back. Instead, she became silent.

 

You are right—when we commit to something we must see it through. This being said, there is always immense opposition when individuals stand in their truth.

True. When I gave this report, some people said: “She must have done this for publicity.” Then there were others who were saying: “She shouldn’t speak like that.” Even in a recent interview, I was asked if I was speaking for publicity. “Arre, what publicity? I took on Manargudi Mafia?”

Anything could have happened to me. I took a significant risk—the Government could have had a knee-jerk reaction and suspended me. But in my case, they couldn’t do that because I was not involved in that corruption case in any way. I was new to the posting—only 17 working days (holidays put together 25 days)—and reported what I saw. So they tried to take another angle—probably she didn’t get along well with the boss. What does it have to do with the boss; what are these nonsense theories that you bring in?

 

You have talked about unwarranted behaviour robbing an individual of precious time and peace of mind.

Of course. The media contributes too. The Kannada media made a mess of my report; thankfully the National media gave my report some direction. When someone reports on maladministration and corruption focus on that, don’t think what made me give it.

Every time a woman speaks—even when an actress speaks about sexual harassment—and when women do something that hurts the interests of men, they will attempt to put theories on why she is doing it; they will claim it’s for publicity. Damn with the reasons, first investigate—look into the things we have brought forth.

Men will try their best to minimise and negate women’s situations. If you are a silenced woman, you are considered a good woman.

True.

 

And if you exercise your voice, you are a horrible woman, a monster.

Yes. Men will say: “Itna bolti hai [She speaks too much], there must be something wrong with her.”

 

Apart from jail issues were there other issues that demanded your attention?

As DIG Prisons, by nomenclature, I was in charge of the whole state, but when I joined, my boss’s order restricted me to three jails—Bangalore jail, Tumkur jail and a small open jail in Bangalore. And my boss wanted to promote a man who had joined in the rank of sub-inspector [S.I.] of police. But an S.I. never becomes SP [Superintendent of Police].

After becoming an SP, I became a DIG, and in my fourth year as a DIG, when I was about to get promoted, my boss wanted me to report to a man who got promoted under the pretext of vacancy (they used a lot of political influence). And this man got a post as additional IG [Inspector General of Police]. There is no such post—this post was created for the S.I. My boss ordered me: “I am DG and I can change things.” And I replied: “You don’t have powers. Let the order come from Government.”

 

You actually said this?

Yes. I told my boss to his face: “Please send it to the government, and if I get the orders from there, I will report to this man [The S.I. who got promoted to IG].”

Though on the one hand I was fighting administration and suffering from the administration side, I reported only what I saw in prison because there were more significant issues of corruption. I didn’t want administrative matters to get mixed with issues of corruption.

Though I had kept my IPS association, president, vice-president, and everybody informed about my situation—that in spite of being DIG Prisons, my boss wanted to make my position subservient to someone else—no one came to my help.

So I recently fought with my IPS association who wanted to give my boss a farewell: “Why do you want to give a farewell to someone who was acting against our IPS interests? How can you give farewell to someone who not only did not follow Government orders but who wanted to negate it by some underhand means? I am here today; I will be somewhere else tomorrow. But other IPS officer’s will follow suit. How can you make IPS officers subservient to somebody else?”

 

Your ex-boss didn’t show up for his farewell?

He didn’t show up.

 

Your stance teaches us that we must tackle issues from all angles.

Yes. I also asked the government for the enquiry committee report, but they denied me the report. So I appealed to a senior officer who too told me that the report is under examination, and they couldn’t give it to me. So I asked them to give it to me in writing, for me to take it up later, which they did.

I was also about to go to the information commission, but now the government has order ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] enquiry.

I had separately asked the ACB what they had done to my report and statements (which was 70 pages, with photos and videos). They had done nothing; they had closed the case: “There is no offence, so we have closed your case.” Just like that? Not even one person visited from ACB—no one visited the jail, they did not inquire about the money angle. They should have asked: “Who met you?” I had mentioned someone by the name of Australia Prakash; ACP should have called him and enquired: “Did you take, did you give [money]?”

 

Mam, can you imagine when they have done this to someone like you, what ordinary people like us go through?

Yeah. That’s what I wrote to my IPS association (in the What’s up group). When I broached the topic of farewell, one person said: “Do not talk about this, he [the boss] is not in this What’s up group.” I told him to add the boss to the group. You can’t remain in denial. Let’s face it, some of my colleagues were unhappy with me.

I told them they were insensitive and that though I fought alone and poured my heart out to them, they were attempting to silence me. How can the general public expect anything from the same police officers?

The manner in which the police treat the common man is deceitful and condescending. And the senior police officers act polite, only to wash over the situation.

True.

Your posting as DIG Prisons lasted for only 17 working days. What did you learn about yourself during that period?

I had endured pressures earlier too, but experiencing continuous pressure along with being questioned by people and media, helped me discover my ability to withstand pressure.

 

Is it true that you have been posted twice within a year?

Yes, twice. Once I was transferred three times in a year. Making it a total of 41 transfers in 17 to 18 years.

 

You say discomfort broadens our understanding of life.

You know about success only when you have the taste of failure; only when there are moments of sadness. Then when happiness comes, you realise how important it is. If life is like a plateau, you don’t grow. Discomfort makes you stronger and exposes very many aspects of life, about people, and about yourself.

How do you define power?

Power is transitory, but people live in this “maya” [Illusion] that it is permanent. And power corrupts people.

Power can have different connotations, depending on situations and people. Police officers create many levels of hierarchy making it difficult for the common man to approach the police. I am surprised to learn that even in a city like Bangalore people who are educated and well achieved have no direct entry to meet the commissioner of police: “Only if you know somebody they will meet you, so could you please put a word?”

 

That’s true.

 

How does corrupt power manifest?

All the ills that you see in the media every day are a manifestation of corrupt power. Corruption manifests itself as nepotism, every instance of law-breaking, and when the law is flaunted.

 

How would you describe your power and how does healthy power manifest?

I have always followed the open door policy. One should not get clouded with power and distance oneself from the common man; it’s the common man we are serving. And though we have rules and laws, one should be large-hearted when it comes to the suffering of the common man.

I did two positive things during my brief tenure as DIG Prisons. First, on observing that no medical tests were conducted on prisoners—to diagnose infections, tuberculosis and HIV—I ensured medical tests were performed on prisoners knowing early diagnosis lead to early treatment.

Similarly, when I spoke to prisoners in their barracks—asking after their backgrounds and what brought them to the prison—I came to learn that they were decaying in jail without lawyers. Most prisoners were poor non-locals—from Tamilnadu and Andra. I identified eight to ten of them and put them through to Free Legal Aid.

Power is the same; the officer is the same. One requires interest and empathy to create positive changes.

Why is it important to maintain conditions of equality within the prison system?

When I reported special facilities to a VIP prisoner, followed by corruption quit pro quo, some people asked: “What’s the big deal if privileges are given? Ek Sashikala ko de diya toh kya ho gaya?”

In my view giving privileges is a grave issue because crimes like dacoity or other economic thefts committed by the poor are mainly because of discrimination and inequality. If the same conditions of inequality and bias are replicated within the four walls of the prison, the poor man is reinforced with thoughts that only the big man gets VIP facilities. So committing crimes is best—you have to take shortcuts and break laws to live comfortably. That is why creating conditions of equality are critical.

And that is why I consider my report very worthy and taken seriously it can be a beginning of the main part of prison reforms.

 

If the police are for people, why is the common man—minus money and clout—scared of the police?

There are good officers too, but our police are not people friendly, and they are not fair. The police are all the time pleasing people in power. Often when the victim is poor and doesn’t have a voice, and the perpetrator is a little bit more powerful, the police will support the perpetrator. We have seen this behaviour—of not taking action—numerous times, especially in cases where a politician, politician’s family, or a wealthy man is involved. Even when the victims want to go the police station to complain, they are not welcome at the police station. Victims will be made to wait, or the police will make them go around in circles.

I want to tell people that when police treat them poorly, they should meet the senior officers and complain.

There is always someone higher up and an IPS officer over those officers. IPS officers pass the highest exams where there is no corruption (it’s purely merit.) and are appropriately trained. Most of us at the IPS level follow an open door policy, and though there are many complaints against junior officers who are the harassing types, you must go and complain to the senior officers; it will work.

 

What does a First Information Report [FIR] process entail?

An FIR is an endorsement of your complaint. And if it is a cognizable offence the police are jolly well supposed to register an FIR and give you a copy of it; it is your right.

If the police don’t file an FIR, they have to let you know that it is not a cognizable offence and give you an acknowledgement. First of all, the police will hesitate to give it in writing, and if they give you an acknowledgement and you find it’s cognizable, you can always take it higher up and get them punished.

You must get something in writing from the police. File the FIR and get the FIR copy. And if they fail to give you an acknowledgement, know it’s wrong.

 

When is a case considered closed?

Investigating a case can take up to three to six months or a year to two years. It depends on the whims and fancies of the investigating officers. Supervisory officers are supposed to supervise every case, but because of VVIP bandobast [protection], most police officers go to meet the Chief Minister or Home Minister, rather than attending to core police duties as they can become closer to VIP’s and be more known. Thereby, priorities have shifted even in the minds of senior officers.

 

So the message to perpetrators is: “Don’t worry. Let victims file cases. We have your back.”

Yes. But the Indian Penal Code [IPC] states that investigations have to be completed within three months, if not maximum of six months. So a victim can always ask: “What have you done about my case?”

 

What is VIP [Very important person] culture and how does it lead to the dismantling of law and order?

The constitution of India is based on equality—it is the rule of the people, for the people, by the people. When India became a republic, all the kings and kingdoms were taken out, and their titles abolished, making them ordinary citizens. So as per our constitution, there is no VIP. Even though the law doesn’t permit inequality, some people because of being in power for a long time or being in influential positions become VIP’s, and these VIP’s take privileges for granted and misuse them. For instance, because of the VIP culture, politicians who do not face any real threat are given policemen as gunmen, which is for show-off. And many times policemen are used for running errands.

VIP culture is about getting preferential treatment. I exposed special treatment, not entitled by law, given to a politically powerful prisoner.

 

What breaks down law and order in society?

If law enforcement officers act strictly as per law, without yielding to pressures, that will take care of so much of law and order problem. The problem occurs when you yield to pressure, that too in a partisan manner—when you listen to one person and not to the other. One should stick to the law.

 

What role do civilians play in contributing to law and order in society?

Civilians have a major role to play in law and order. When you see vandalism, report it to the police, or when you look at crime, you should report it to the police. People are often apathetic—it’s not our problem—why should we get involved; why should we go to the police station; we will be harassed and so on.

As responsible citizens you should walk that extra mile. You might have to go through a little bit of discomfiture, but you must take that risk. Everybody has to be involved, not say: “Let others take care of it, I shouldn’t be bothered.”

What is corruption? And what is the (long-term) real cost of corruption to society and humanity?

Some statistics say that every year corruption costs us 100 billion dollars. But let’s look at the simple things in our day-to-day life—you give a bribe and get the job, but by offering a bribe, you have made a meritorious person lose his daily bread. It’s for citizens to develop empathy and realise that acting unfairly is not right. We all think that corruption is something abstract, but day in and day out we see and participate in corruption.

A bribe is generally monetary, but at times it can be in the form of other services—like a resort stay for 3 to 4 days for the family of the person whom you are bribing—for getting undue favours. Corruption reinforces the prevalent inequality and discrimination, dividing the haves and the have-nots.

 

What attributes enable a person to take the right actions?

In my case, I acted as per law and without getting bogged down because of moral courage. Moral courage comes from the fact that you have nothing to be scared or ashamed of from your past. And you don’t have any vested interests in the future. For example, in my position, I am not obliged to anyone as I know that I will not curry favours for cushy and prestigious postings, foreign tours, and other privileges and always act as per law. Second, you have to be clear and competent in your work, knowing what is right and what is as per law and what is not.

A clear mind, competence, and moral courage can make anyone go on the right path.

Does contentment play a role in standing in your truth?

Yes. Contentment, as well as the kind of respect you earn from the common man, plays a role in standing in my truth.

 

In the recent past, you were awarded the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service. What does this recognition mean to you?

At the time of dealing with multiple pressures, this recognition motivated me further. This award is also a responsibility—to become a better person and be more responsible towards the society.

 

 

To learn more about D Roopa Moudgil, IPS, please visit her twitter account.

On International Women’s Day 2018, I received a message along with a link from Madam Roopa, which was one of the two highlights of the day. This unique video by Shruti Rao and team captures Madam Roopa’s innate musical gift. Thank you, Shruti Rao, for conceiving and creating this inspiring video.

 

 

 

 

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