THE COP STORY
IPS officer Mahesh Bhagwat is a hero, whose relentless work towards wiping off human trafficking is an exemplary example of the power of a lawmaker in creating positive change. The real life crime stories that he shares with Society are bound to reinstate
Anusha was only 16 when her poverty driven family wanted to marry her off to a much older man in 2017. Fortunately she was rescued by the police under the guidance of Rachakonda Police Commissioner, Mahesh Bhagwat. And now this child marriage victim represents the Telangana state in cricket and has put on a stupendous performance in the recent Under-19 women’s matches at the National level. But this achievement is nothing unusual for the visionary police officer, for whom, his job was not just fighting crime but also rehabilitating victims and sometimes criminals too. The ‘ Trafficking in Person Report Hero’ awardee—presented by the government of the United States for his contribution in fighting human trafficking—Bhagwat is indeed an officer to be reckoned with. He was selected for the award for his 13 years of consistent work in anti-trafficking. He has been recognised for his vital role in eliminating human trafficking as a government’s priority and his innovative approach in investigating cases and dismantling trafficking operations. All throughout his 22 years of service in the Police Department, the IPS officer has always come up with progressive ideas to bring down crime. Not the kind to lie on laurels, he is working on something new at the moment and proudly talks about it. “Over the years, I have learnt that criminals come up with innovative methods of cheating people. The latest is online flesh trade through a website, where women from all over the world are solicited—a modern version of prostitution. Some of the women in this trade have been trapped. We caught many of them red-handed through the
information we got and used decoy customers. We had even saved victims from Uzbekistan and Bangladesh and safely sent them back to their countries,” he informs, going on to add, “Actually, after this operation, we conducted raids and arrested men and women running brothels in the garb of hostels in and around the city.” As a Superintendent of Nalgonda district, he tried to rehabilitate prostitutes who were forced into their family trade. He even set up small scale units to help these women. The officer is really proud of two of his pet projects—Operation Muskaan and Operation Smile. “We were informed about children working in the brick making industry and spinning mills. We realised that most kids were children of migrant labourers from Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar. These labourers work in the kilns from November to June and are paid around 10,000 rupees for six months and the owners also employ the kids in the kilns,” he expounds. So what was his action plan? “We managed to rescue 370 children from Orissa who had accompanied their parents. Our idea was to help these kids attend school for the six months their parents stayed here. But as all of them knew only Odia language, we collaborated with an NGO from Orissa and opened a school for them in areas of my jurisdiction. The schools are run by the NGO and the teachers are paid by the brick kiln owners. We have three such schools,” he responds enthusiastically. Apart from brick kilns, his teams also raided other places, including spinning mills. “In one case, we rescued 11 minor girls in a spinning mill, who had eloped with their boyfriends from Jharkhand and were living with them here. We had to send them back. Unfortunately, the spinning mill was run by an influential former judge and he knew all the loopholes in the law. He escaped unpunished while some partners got arrested. It is very sad that a lawmaker itself breaks the law. But in my 22 years of service, I have had to deal with many such people,” he recounts. Working towards prevention of all types of crime, Bhagwat and his team—along with the ‘She team’—chose 350 students from 150 colleges and trained them to bridge the gap between the police and public. The team recently reported 17 cases, where the women from a hostel were harassed by a former watchman of the hostel. And as a part of their rehabilitation efforts, Mahesh has made efforts to set up counselling centers, especially for girls who have been rescued from child marriage and prostitution dens. His team has also raided ultrasonography centers that were illegally conducting sex determination tests. Canada’s Ascent Software and Data Company, which has been ranked on the 2017 Top 100 Human trafficking and Slavery Influence Leaders list, had selected Mahesh Bhagwat. He stood 47th on their list for his contribution towards fighting against sexual abuse and modern slavery. Bhagwat presently heads the largest area wise Commissionerate jurisdiction in the country. This is one supercop, who is out there, making a difference as he believes in the philosophy, ‘The hands that help others are holier than the lips that pray’.