A REAL LIFE HERO WHO PUTS NATION ABOVE ALL
Meet Sudesna Sengupta, the winner of HT Woman Awards in Beyond UP category
‘Heroes don’t always come in uniform!’ The tagline of Ajay Devgnstarrer ‘Raid’ -- a film based on high-profile income tax raids -- holds true not only for reel life but real life too.
Sudesna Sengupta, who won the HT Woman Awards in Beyond UP category, is one such intelligence officer who has overcome personal and professional challenges with élan to serve the country.
Sample this: She led an operation to nab a notorious smuggler wanted in 40 cases and eluding the police net for six years.
“After gathering intel, we started the operation at 1 am in hired vehicles as his aides were spread all over the area in Maslandapur (West Bengal). His hideout had multiple exits. At 4:30 am we reached an opening where we had to enter from an iron grill below the door. Barely dogs could pass through it,” she says.
Though her team suggested her to stay back but the gritty officer of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence decided to lead from the front.
“I could not have missed this chance. I went inside with my partner (IO) Sudeb Sarkar and arrested the accused,” she says and adds, “Our each raid is a plot for a movie.”
DRI, where she works, is mandated to combat smuggling of contraband goods, trafficking of narcotics, underinvoicing and thwarting all anti-national economic activities having its jurisdiction all over India.
FAMILY SUPPORT, THE KEY!
For Sudesna, a native of Kolkata, her family-- both paternal as well as in-laws-- is her strength.
Sudesna says her father always gave priority to her and is her inspiration. “Never in my life had I felt that my parents treated me differently,” says Sudesna who also has a brother eight years younger to her.
“Being the elder kid, I used to visit whole West Bengal with my father for canvassing the books as he was a publisher,” she says. Her father motivated her to work. “I was helping him in his business. The sense of responsibility was guided by another thing to do something big for the society and nation,” she says.
“Now also, I live in a joint family, my mother-in-law — the head of the family — is a great fighter. She lost her husband 23 years back and overcame all adverse circumstances to bring up two sons for which she even sacrificed her career,” Sudesna says. Her husband Sourav Sengupta is a national-lever table tennis player and together they have a son and daughter.
“Study has been my first love throughout be it school text or other books. I love literature and was into it but somehow I look geography as subject in honors. In college, I came very close to the society due to a number of activities and saw number of social issues and started acting as member of Rotaractor Club of Kolkata mid-south. Visiting orphanage, old age houses and rehabilitation centres motivated me to take human rights as my subject in masters,” she says.
Her work and cases brought her to Uttar Pradesh too. “I am dealing with very big case related to UP railway syndicate which runs 8-10 fraud companies that imports readymade garments from China on the basis of misdeclaring the goods and declaring them undervalued evading customs duty,” she says.
She also actively took part in seizure of 12 kg smuggled gold biscuits of foreign origin from a syndicate of Varanasi.
The kingpin who was from UP managed to escape but finally caught from Guwahati. She was also part of the team in which DRI booked a series of 13 cases of smuggling through Kolkata Airport where goods worth ₹193 crore related to counterfeit high valued branded watches, branded shoes and electronic items were seized.
“These days, I am working on a syndicate of export diversion of jewellery which involves evading ₹2,500 crore of government duty. I have contributed a lot to wildlife cases where illegal trade of star tortoise (a rare species), elephant tusk, tiger skin and rhino horn was been done,” says Sudesna.
Working day and night for a mother of two is always a challenge.
“At first, I was only called in assignments where females accused were involved. But the title of lady officer did not satisfy my appetite. It took me one year to prove myself. And one day I was called in midnight for raids.”
Challenges are more when the labour is manual. “Especially, when equivalent amount of strength and energy is required like a male. For example, leading an operation to examine a 40-ft container at Kolkata port that takes 20-36 hours working with labourers and taking all recordings is very excruciating. Another challenge is when your kids are ill and you have to report to duty,” she says.
THREAT COMES AS PACKAGE!
The officer says smuggling cases comes with lifethreatening risks.
“I have faced direct threats like if I am out of custody even God can’t save you!’ After release from judicial custody, people are required to report to DRI and have to deal with IOs. In one of the cases of smuggling from Mayanmar the accused whispered to me, ‘your boy is in this school…your husband works here…you live in this area…my past dating back to 10 years…so sometimes it’s very disturbing. But, nowadays I don’t care! Still, when family comes into picture…it’s surely challenging!”
In the same vein she adds, “Contribution to nation is my priority. Drug addiction rehabilitation is one arena where I would like to work.”
Sudesna Sengupta on a vacation with her family and (below) with the HT Woman Beyond UP award.