Who’s afraid of transfers

Shriya Mohan | Updated on January 08, 2018

Calling out: D Roopa shot into the national limelight after she raised the issue of VIP culture in prisons   -  PTI

Outspoken and much-shunted Bengaluru cop D Roopa declares she will never play the victim card

If D Roopa had her way, she would single-handedly extricate Indian public servants from the tentacles of VIP culture. “Somebody has to do the dirty job. I chose to do it,” says the young commissioner of road and traffic safety in Bengaluru. “After all, what is the real threat to them (VIPs)? If security and gunmen are provided without making any real threat perception analysis, the only purpose it serves is to flaunt their sense of importance. When you’re coming to serve the public, some degree of threat is an occupational hazard,” she argues. Over her 17-year career as a cop, Roopa herself has faced, and continues to battle, several threats and defamation notices. “I never play the victim card. I don’t buy that I am threatened in any real way. I am stronger than that,” she declares during a telephonic interview with BL ink.

Roopa shot into the national limelight in July this year after she raised the issue of the special treatment allegedly given to the jailed ousted AIADMK leader VK Sasikala at Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara central prison. After joining duty as deputy inspector general of police (prisons) on June 23, Roopa began visiting the prisons regularly to understand the difficulties faced by the inmates. That’s when she discovered Sasikala had access to a private meeting room with a revolving chair and daily visitors. Claiming that her superior had not acted despite being aware of the goings-on, she submitted a report that was accompanied by the visual evidence she had gathered. Five days later, on July 18, she was transferred out — she had lasted as DIG (prisons) for just 17 working days. The Parappana Agrahara prison, Roopa believes, is a Pandora’s box nobody wants to probe.

She terms her current posting in charge of road safety as a “glorified postman”. Her job is to disburse funds to districts, and monitor road accidents and collate figures. “I try to reduce accidents. But there is no enforcement here. Traffic police stations don’t report to me. There is no control, authority or power.”

Growing up in Davangere, in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Roopa decided she wanted to be a cop when she was barely eight. Her Std III class was given a day to think about what each of them wanted to be when they grew up. Roopa’s mother, then a superintendent of courts, urged her to become a doctor. Her father, a Central government employee and telecom engineer, sat her down and explained about the UPSC exams, and the work that IAS and IPS officers do. “If you are a superintendent of police, all police officers will report to you,” he told his little girl. “It seemed powerful. I instantly knew I had my answer,” Roopa says.

Adding fuel to her burning ambition was the TV serial Udaan, inspired by the life of Kanchan Chaudhary, the country’s second female IPS officer. Directed by Kavita Chaudhary and aired on Doordarshan, the show depicted the police officer as a friend and protector of the masses. Along the way Roopa also learnt Bharatanatyam, classical music, sharpshooting, and was even crowned Miss Davangere twice. Topping it all, she was a State rank-holder in Std X and XII.

In 1990, as an NCC cadet, the young schoolgirl had marched at the Republic Day parade in the Capital. Fourteen years later, posted as Dharwad’s Superintendent of Police, she flew with her team to Bhopal and arrested Uma Bharti, the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, in connection with a 10-year-old non-bailable criminal case in which Bharti was accused of hoisting the national flag at Dharwad’s communally sensitive Idgah Maidan on Independence Day.

In 2013, as deputy commissioner of police of the City Armed Reserve in Bengaluru, she withdrew the unauthorised additional orderlies and escort vehicles deployed for MLAs and MPs, and the former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. “To be precise, that involved withdrawing 115 unauthorised gunmen from 82 politicians and eight vehicles of Yeddyurappa,” she says.

Taking on the high and mighty comes instinctively to her, she says, insisting that she doesn’t fear the consequences. “Officers are scared to reveal anything, even if it is in public interest. Why is there so much secrecy and unfounded fear? It’s ironic that officers are most perturbed by the demands of transparency and accountability that the government keeps promising (to enforce),” she says.

“Most officers want cushy postings. This makes them afraid to speak up. Perhaps because I am prepared to be transferred anywhere I can afford to be forthright,” says the female officer who has at times been transferred twice in a year.

The greatest price she has paid through the years has been the paucity of time spent with her husband, Munish Moudgil, commissioner (survey, settlement and land records) of Bangalore. An IAS officer of the 1998 batch, he was her senior by two years. “He is my sounding board, my inspiration and the most honest, upright officer I know,” says Roopa. The couple has two children.

In a rare instance where Roopa and Moudgil were posted together, in Bidar (he was the SP and she was DSP), she had included the name of a ruling party MLA in her FIR, which accused him of instigating a mob to desecrate an Ambedkar statue for political gains. The MLA raised a privilege motion against her. She was transferred out within months and the case dragged for years.

“My husband says I do things without thinking, but it has never occurred to me that by speaking up against injustice I am jeopardising my situation,” she says.

Published on October 06, 2017

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