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D. Roopa: the ‘outsider’ top cop of Karnataka

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-07-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru/New Delhi: D. Roopa was five years old when her school teacher asked the students to discuss their future careers with their parents and disclose it the next day. Her mother suggested medicine and her father recommended the civil services. Roopa leaned on the idea of being a civil servant, something that transformed into a goal she never took her eyes off from.

By the time Roopa Divakar Moudgil, now married to IAS officer Munish Moudgil, cleared her Class X board exams, she already knew the subjects of choice for her Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams—psychology and sociology.

“It was an idea planted by our father. It was his dream to become an IAS officer but did not have the wherewithal at the time,” said Rohini Divakar, deputy commissioner at the income tax department, and Roopa’s sister.

Roopa, 42, did not get swayed by alternate career choices even after she was crowned Miss Davangere (a district about 260km from Bengaluru) twice or by her passion for dancing.

An Arts graduate from A.V.K College for Women in Davangere, Roopa didn’t stop until she cracked the UPSC in her first attempt, becoming the first woman Indian Police Service (IPS) official from Karnataka.

Roopa has enjoyed a stellar record as a police official in Karnataka which includes the arrest of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharati in 2004, removal of orderlies and escort vehicles used by former Karnataka chief minister B.S.Yeddyurappa and taking on local politicians or her own superiors. She was also summoned many times to depose before the Karnataka council speaker after a member of the upper house from Gadag moved a privilege motion against her for arresting him.

She has been transferred ever year, sometimes even twice, in her 17- year-long career.

On Monday, Roopa was transferred from her post as Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Prisons, a post she took over barely a month ago. All because she took on her own superiors to highlight wide-scale corruption and mismanagement in Bengaluru central jail, including preferential treatment given to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary V.K.Sasikala.

“Different postings have different challenges. Though many people consider Prisons department ‘punishment posting’, I did not think so. I am strong headed,” Roopa told Mint on Monday, adding that she has discharged her duties without giving too much thought on the consequences.

In 2008, Roopa even got her own subordinate suspended for trying to broker a deal between her and a former MLA in Gadag.

Her recent report which has sent shockwaves in political circles has made her an “outsider”, she said.

Fiery women police officers taking on the system and later paying a price for it doesn’t seem unusual these days. In the third week of June, a video of Syana (Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh) DSP Shrestha Thakur getting into a verbal spat with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers went viral on social media. The altercation, which began when Thakur fined an errant BJP worker on a two-wheeler, escalated into a verbal spat, with the DSP saying such actions malign the party’s name. Thakur may have won herself several fans among common people but the administration “rewarded” her with a posting to Bahraich, near the Nepal border.

In another example, DIG, Criminal Investigation Department (DIG) Sonia Narang was transferred as Superintendent of Police, National Investigation Agency (NIA) late in March. Narang was the catalyst in bringing to light the scam in anti-corruption watchdog, Lokayukta.

“Roopa has been transferred because she went to the media but the larger point is that police forces still remain in the clutches of the state government. For officers to be able to function freely without fear of retribution, there need to be reforms,” says Alok Prasana Kumar, lawyer and visiting fellow, Vidhi Centre for Legal Aid.

Transfers are often used to “punish” Central government employees as the local government cannot dismiss them from their services. The introduction of police reforms has long been a demand of both activists and senior police officers, serving and retired, to safeguard the police force from meddling politicians, but in spite of Supreme Court rulings, not much has been done in this regard.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that a senior officer who has been granted a fixed tenure cannot be transferred mid-way because the political establishment so desires. This was done in the context of the Kerala government’s decision to remove IPS officer T.P. Senkumar as DGP before his two-year term got over, Kumar said.

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