Back in 2017, when the entire media flashed headlines about the special treatment being given to Sasikala in the Bengaluru Central Prison, the name of a woman cop caught the spotlight for having been fearless enough to expose these discrepancies. That fearless cop was none other than D Roopa Moudgil, the then DIG (Prisons) who is currently serving as the first woman Home Secretary of Karnataka!
In the making
“I grew up in a small mofussil town called Davangere in Karnataka and both my parents worked so I grew up knowing I would be a working woman. My younger sister Rohini and I were raised in a rather liberal upbringing,” reflects Roopa. She was just in class 3 when her father told her she must grow up to be an IAS or IPS officer and explained the potential of these services. Roopa did not just excel in studies but also learnt Bharatnatyam for many years, loved singing and took part in all extracurricular activities in school and college.
She naturally took to NCC and representing her state as the best cadet in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi made her realise that her calling was in the khaki uniform. “Immediately after the parade we had an interactive session with Dr Kiran Bedi at the garrison parade grounds and it was so inspiring to meet her and listen to her that I decided that I surely wanted to join the police service,” recalls Roopa.
The test of fire
While pursuing her graduation and post graduation in psychology and sociology she continued to be part of NCC and also kept preparing for the UPSC exams. She cleared the exams with flying colours and got the All India 47th rank in the UPSC exam and was allotted her home cadre. Even during the police training she came 5th in her batch training alongside the boys in the activities. Sharp shooting became her forte, and she dominated all the competition therein.
Her gritty spirit and active energy was too distinct to go unnoticed. Naturally, she was entrusted with the most challenging of postings, and each one of them only made Roopa tougher. She consistently worked on the principle that no one, not even a powerful politician, is above the law.
Standing for truth
In her first posting, she was given the task of executing a non bailable warrant against the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Ms Uma Bharti in relation to a court case in Hubbali.
“Most of my postings have been demanding but I have never been afraid of doing my duty for fear of being punished or just because I am a woman. Whether it was arresting an ex-minister for abetment of violence including burning buses or recalling 216 excess armed men kept unauthorizedly by 81 politicians or withdrawing SUV’s maintained by an ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka even after he was no longer in power. When I was posted in a new district called Yadgir they didn’t have proper housing facilities and I stayed in a village with my husband and my daughter started her schooling there,” says Roopa. Roopa trained in Hindustani classical music during this posting in Yadgir; she has even taken on playback singing for a Kannada movie and also released a music video to the tune of “Tora Man Darpan Kehlaye” on Women’s Day in 2018.
Baring open lawlessness
Her 17 working day tenure in the Bengaluru Central prison and what she exposed at that time drew so much media attention to her. “I was posted as DIG (Prisons) and I reported there on 23rd June 2017. Within the first few days I began receiving complaints of drug peddling and medical officers being assaulted in the prison but when I asked for the report I did not receive anything for almost 10 days and I decided to make a surprise visit to see things for myself. I was shocked with all that I saw and decided it was my duty to report all of it,” says Roopa.
She saw special privileges being given to Sasikala in prison. Although an ordinary prisoner she was given 5 rooms along with a full corridor, special food was being cooked for her and she was not in prison clothes which was usually a white saree. Sasikala was also meeting visitors in a special room which had revolving chairs, a table and no CCTV camera. It was also reported that a huge sum of money, about 2 crores, was exchanged to give her these privileges. Roopa did her duty of reporting but a defamation case was slapped on her by her senior and she was immediately transferred out.
The balancing act
“These times were very difficult as I was juggling between answering colleagues to answering the media who had so many questions based on all versions they were hearing. It was my husband Munish Moudgil who not just stood by me but also guided me on how I should handle the whole situation,” says Roopa. Her husband Munish Moudgil, a graduate of IIT Mumbai, now an IAS officer is currently heading the Covid War Room in Bengaluru. They have two children Anagha and Roshil.
Always thriving in gruelling schedules
Roopa was serving as the IG (Railways) when the Coronavirus struck and the lockdown happened. Her husband dove headfirst into managing the Covid War Room and spent even weekends away at work while Roopa managed work and home together effectively. “When trains resumed and the first Rajdhani came, the passengers did not know they would have to go into quarantine and they began protesting. I immediately plunged into action and arranged 4 additional bogies in the Rajdhani that was going back to Delhi and helped these passengers go back home,” says Roopa.
When the Chief Secretary formed teams to check on hospitals treating Covid patients, Roopa went with her team comprising IAS officers Harsh Gupta and Ashok Gowda to three hospitals and found that the hospitals were over charging patients. The hospitals were immediately ordered to refund patients and 22 patients got a refund of around 24 lakhs.
Resilient in any role
She is now posted as the first woman Home Secretary of Karnataka. Roopa has been transferred almost 42 times but in every posting she has proved to be the best. “As officers, we are given so much security. Why should we be afraid or be bound by the chains of these politicians? When we break free from the chains of these politicians and serve to uphold the law, we become a force to reckon with. We are drawing salaries from the ex-chequer and are here to serve the common man and that’s why I believe in always keeping my office open and being accessible,” states a fearless Roopa!
She truly has been a force to reckon with and heads turn when people hear her name! Rightly touted as “Lady Singham” and “Karnataka’s Kiran Bedi,” Roopa Moudgil is overturning corruption, one operation at a time!