By Milinda Ghosh Roy
Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Roopa D Moudgil, who exposed special favours extended to ousted AIADMK leader VK Sasikala in a Bengaluru jail during her tenure as the DIG Prisons in Karnataka, has said sexual discrimination exists in different forms in the Indian bureaucracy, though it is often kept carefully under wraps.
In an interview with IANS, the current Inspector General of Police (Home Guards and Civil Defence), Bengaluru, also dwelt on the importance of prison reforms and sensitisation of the officials and talked about her fight to extricate the Indian public servants from the tentacles of VIP culture.
"Yes, sexual discrimination is present in Indian bureaucracy, though it is subtle. You can get a feel of it by looking at how many prestigious posts the men are occupying compared to their female counterparts. The gap is stark, though there is not a lot of difference in terms of potential," said Roopa, who was in Kolkata to attend a literary meet.
"When I joined service in 2000, the number of female IPS officers was very less. Now more women are coming into the police service. I often felt there is a sense of discrimination, especially when it comes to the place of posting for a female officer. People seem to doubt whether lady officers would be good enough to handle a sensitive or important place."
"Also the women in police service are hardly given prestigious posts. Maybe because the most sought-after posts, which involves a lot of power, also have a lot of vested interests involved and those in power think twice before posting a lady officer as they doubt if they would be able to get their work done through her," Roopa said.
The officer, who recently declined to accept an award recognising her work from a Karnataka-based private foundation for the "heavy" cash reward it came with, said women officers in high ranks often have to deal with insubordination by male officers and blamed this on the common perception of women in Indian society.
"The immediate line of male subordinates often oppose the order given by a lady officer. There is a general feeling in our society that ladies, no matter how literate or experienced they are, have a lesser idea about the outside world. So there is a tendency to neglect the orders. They would disobey you, argue with you and even lie to you," she said.
Roopa, who stirred a hornet's nest last year by going public about the VIP treatment received by Sasikala in Bengaluru's Parappana Agrahara Central Prison, said the cases of discrimination inside the jails are a reflection of the discrimination that exists in society.
"The people who are considered as VIPs outside are often given VIP treatment inside the prison as well. They avail special facilities. For the poor, the jail is like hell. So the discrimination that exists in society, the same is reflected in the microcosm of prisons.
"Corruption has to be tackled, the prison officials involved in such practices have to be dealt with using a carrot-and-stick policy. They should be heavily punished if such behaviour is found and also the officials need to be sensitised about the law because it does not permit any such discrimination," she pointed out.
Asked about being transferred 26 times in 17 years of her service, the officer said though she finds it demotivating sometimes, it does not stop her from doing good work.
Following the Sasikala expose, Roopa's senior and the then Karnataka DGP (Prisons) HN Sathyanarayana Rao, filed a Rs 50 crore defamation lawsuit against her for accusing him and other prison officials of taking bribes from the jailed AIADMK leader.
However, Roopa says she is confident that the charges of defamation won't stand against her as she had just been doing her duty like a loyal public servant.
"I have never criticised the entire state government or defamed anyone. So I am confident that this defamation would not stand against me. I will come out of it clean. I have done my duty in an accountable and transparent manner, in a way every government servant is expected to," she said.
"I was not nervous because I did not think about the consequences during the expose. I knew that I have acted as per law. I have nothing to hide. I have no vested interest in this. My courage comes from my righteousness," the officer added.
(Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)