Inspired by the “Police job” and her mom’s unfulfilled dream of cracking the civil services, ACP Pragya, at her 6th grade, had decided to pursue the life of a cop. Hailing from Bihar, she has made her way through universities like DU and JNU, to becoming an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Striding her feet on the beliefs of teamwork, bravery, and uphill battles, Pragya has won several awards for the same. Breaking stereotypes of the so-called ‘man-power,’ she is an inspiration for many.
Read further to know what the ACP has to say as Team Storiyaan gets on with a short interview with her.
Questions and answers
Can you start by talking about the first time you realized you wanted to serve the country? Did you only want to do it as a policewoman, or did you think of other fields?
There’s always a thrill quotient attached to the Police job that we see on TV/Movies or read in Magazines. It attracted me as a child, so in 6th or 7th grade, I decided to study for the civil services exams. It was also my mom’s unfulfilled dream to crack the public services exam. It acted as a potent force in me choosing this profession. I never planned on pursuing any other career, and I am blessed that I achieved what I strived for.
You graduated from Delhi University, went on to be an ACP today. Of course, the journey couldn’t be easy. What were, if any, the challenges you faced while picking up pieces for your goal?
My journey began during my school days in Notre Dame Academy, Patna. From there to DU, JNU, and then UPSC has been a journey worth cherishing. I graduated studying Science, but I always felt like it wasn’t my calling. I changed my stream and completed my post-graduation from JNU. Coming from Bihar to Delhi was itself a challenge. There was a vast cultural difference. Bihari was considered slang, and there were many biases and myths about us. I adapted to my life there. My only goal after graduation was to crack civil services, and I gave it my 100%. Though, I think changing my stream was my biggest challenge.
You gained widespread attention and praise from the public for your services, especially during the pandemic. How has the police been affected due to this— on account of your schedules and duties?
We have only been doing our duty, but I thank everyone for acknowledging our efforts. Yes, our department suffered from casualties while serving society. Despite our challenges, we are ready to serve and protect our country. It was challenging to adapt to the situation as Covid-19 was unheard of and unpredictable. It did take a psychological toll on us. On a positive note, the general public saw our lesser-seen compassionate side. Our schedules and duties have changed. To implement the lockdown, we started putting up pickets and barricades 24*7 in our area. We are helping migrant laborers with food packets made hygienically in temples and Gurudwaras. Beat staff also reach out to elderly and sick people with groceries and medicine. Many police officers have been staying at the precinct away from their families to keep them safe if they contract the virus on duty. We have been engaging with the public through social media platforms, urging them to stay home and stay safe. Our only goal to stop the virus from spreading, and we are working on it with full enthusiasm.
For your services, you were honored by the IWC Switzerland Chapter with the International Extraordinary Women’s Award in June. What does a title like that mean to you, if anything?
Policing is teamwork. We are nothing in isolation. It motivates us and makes us feel elated when we are conferred with such an award. Though I was the recipient of the award, I am just the face. It shows how hard my team and our department has worked. The entire department is the soul behind this face.
Talk to us about your work with Sangini Saheli.
Sangini Saheli is an initiative started by the fashion designer, Mrs. Priyal Bhardwaj. The aim is to provide sanitary pads to every woman in need. When she shared this idea with us, I could associate with it, being a female. During the lockdown, when even food was difficult to afford for migrant workers and the female population, sanitary pads seemed far fetched. We immediately organized the ‘First distribution and awareness camp’ in our district with the help of our seniors. Sangini Saheli has reached out to people from 15 states along with Delhi. It gives me immense pleasure to see this initiative help young girls and women to have access to affordable health essentials. Every month we reach out to women residing in slums and jhuggis to provide them with their monthly health and hygiene essentials. I hope it continues until I am around.
We have seen a lot of clashes between police and commoners in recent times in India. The ‘ideal’ image of police in today’s scenario has changed in the public's eye. What do you have to say about that?
We are a big country. Society’s expectations from the police and government are growing as well. It took us a while to shun the legacy of police being a force that needs to be feared. So it may take more time for the people to understand that we are here to serve them. There might be a sense of dissatisfaction amongst people at times. I take it positively and remind myself that we need to keep evolving and improving with time. There is always scope for betterment.
Has your perspective towards looking at Indian politics and governance changed after you joined the services, or is it the same as when you were a student?
As a student, you always look at things in black and white. As you grow up, with experience, you learn about the existence of the shades of grey. As a youngster, I too used to believe that everything had to be perfect, be it Politics or governance. After joining the forces, I learned that running a country with the size and scale of India isn’t an easy task. Operating even just the police force isn’t easy. For instance, the modus operandi of crime and criminals was conventional and straightforward. Technology has changed everything. We continuously have to update our skills to solve cases. The government, too, is trying its best to adapt. Being on the other side of the table has shown me how challenging it is to govern a country. However, it does act as a source of motivation for us.
The case of the 33-year-old man being released for good behavior after a murder and rape is an enraging fact. What do you think is a punishment apt enough for such brutality shown by the man?
We have to respect the law. We may have our conflicts and dilemma with the judgments. As a society, we need to have faith in the system and respect the law. There is a uniform yardstick to evaluate crime and criminal situations to ensure law and order.
What’s your take on the current ‘Ram Mandir’ case? Do you think it’s right for the government to overlook these trying times?
I am a firm believer in the rule of law. The honorable Supreme Court settled the issue of Ram Mandir. I am sure the government is following the judgment in letter and spirit. I believe that we are doing our best collectively during these trying times to contain the pandemic. The latest reports have shown improving outcomes across India.
What are your thoughts on Muslims wanting to build a mosque at Sanjay Gandhi National Park?
India is a secular country. Every religion has a constitutionally guaranteed right to construct a place of worship. If any religious community wants to build a place of worship in compliance with all the legalities of the area of their choice, why would anyone have an objection?
Do you think justice is being lenient on people with well-known contacts? How would you ensure that these kinds of slips don’t exist in our judicial system?
No, the system is 100% perfect and efficient. Errors and slips that you referred to might have happened on a few occasions. That does not mean the entire judicial system is prone to falls. Justice is not lenient towards anyone. Although yes, as pointed out in several reports by different government committees, we do need judicial reforms to make it more efficient.
The Police department in India is mainly male-dominated? How does it feel to be such a high ranking female officer?
It feels truly blessed. It imparts me with a sense of responsibility being at such a rank irrespective of my gender. I hope thousands and lakhs of girls can join the forces and change the face of policing.
What, according to you, are some of the qualities that a police officer should possess?
Police officers are no different from others in society. They should be humane, like everyone. Though over the years, I have learned that patience and empathy are essential. These qualities, as a police officer, always pays off.
Being an ACP must be very stressful. How do you deal with this stress? Do you have some hobbies that act as a stress-buster?
Listening to music is my biggest stress buster. I listen to music while traveling to work. Talking to my family and friends helps me too. It makes me feel calmer.
Our beloved country’s 74th Independence day is in less than a week. What message do you have for today’s patriotic youth, to bring our country to prosperity?
To all the young patriots, you have the potential to shape the future of our country. Your voice and opinions matter to advance and develop our nation on issues like Human rights, Women Empowerment, technology, or climate change. But always reflect upon your actions and think of its consequences. Along with our rights as a free democratic citizen, we have to uphold the basic tenets of democracy – Justice, Equality, Fraternity, and Liberty. You are the change-makers of India. To bring a change, you have to be skilled and harness your optimal potential.
What do you have to say to youngsters who are pursuing to join civil services? What message do you want to convey to them?
To all the youngsters who are or want to prepare for civil services, stay focused, and determined towards your goals. Remember this quote from Swami Vivekanand Ji, “Arise, Awake and Stop not till the Goal is reached.” The exams would test your patience as well as knowledge. Be ready, and don’t quit. Learn from your mistakes. Remember, it is not the end of the world, and civil services are not everything in life. Life is way more than that. In the end, UPSC preparations will help you evolve as a person. God forbid, if it does not work out, take the learning and evolution as a reward from it.
1. Yoga or workout: Yoga
2. Describe your duty in three words: Challenging, satisfying, impactful
3. Books or movies: Movies
4. Fieldwork or paperwork: Fieldwork
4. One person who motivates you: My Sister