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

Society - - PRIVILEGED INFORMATION - | By NANDINI R PENNA|

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’.

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