How Pithoragarh’s First Woman SP Is Handling The COVID-19 Situation
IPS Preity Priyadarshini is turning the Pithoragarh district in Uttrakhand around with her leadership and empathetic approach. As the first woman superintendent of police in the district, she is setting a precedents for young girls, she even commanded the republic day parade when she was the ASP in Mathura. With COVID-19 cases approaching the area lately, she is determined to tackle the situation alongside her team.
In a conversation with SheThePeople, IPS Preity Priyadarshini talks about the pandemic situation, her leadership, setting progressive gender roles in front of her son and suggests why people must avoid fake news circulation.
Living the dream of serving the public
It wasn’t always Preity’s dream to become a police officer, rather, it was her intent to help everyone that later motivated her to enter the force. “My drive to contribute to society pushed me to enter the Indian Police Service. I worked hard, cleared necessary exams and now, being a police officer, I am living that dream. So, it is the other way round.”
Leading the district, amidst the pandemic
The Coronavirus situation, she shares, is although, under control, it’s the incoming positive cases which are causing a panic amongst the public. “There’s panic, it’s worrisome to see cases surging everywhere. Having said that, we were amongst one of the last districts to be seeing positive cases because the accessibility of our district is so far away. We held up, it gave us a lot of time to prepare our SOP for the imbalance. Rest, most of the people are following instructions here so we don’t have to coerce the public that much. As for defaulters, we are taking the required actions.”
Extending help to the vulnerable
Recently, on hearing about the distress of a poor and unemployed family where a woman had just delivered a baby, she was seen visiting, helping and following up with them. “There’s a group of Nepali families living close by, I heard from a staff member that there’s a lady who had just delivered and didn’t have necessary means or resources, the newborn didn’t have clothes, considering the lockdown. While they did have grains and raw food, I know, being a mother, that it’s not enough. There are a lot of things a new mother needs to stay healthy other than wheat and rice. We arranged everything including cotton, antiseptic solution, fibre foods, hygiene kits, medicines and whatever needed,” she recollects.
“For us, as public servants, it’s nothing like going out of the way to help people. It’s a part of our swearing-in as officers.”
Parenting and instilling equal gender roles in her son’s mind
Preity’s husband, Prahlad Meena, is an IPS officer himself, and while the couple is serving the country day in and out, their son is learning the right lessons in equality and gender roles. Like any other parent, the SP wishes to be more around her child, however, she feels it’s a huge example she is sitting in front of him in more ways than one.
“When I see from my son’s perspective, he is seeing his mother working just as much like his father. My husband is also an IPS and both of us serve equally as officers and as parents. So, I believe, gender neutrality in my son’s mind is very clear, he is not confined to the idea that a mother is ‘supposed’ to spend more time at home, or work less outside, just because she is a woman,” she says.
“When I see from my son’s perspective, he is seeing his mother working just as much like his father.”
Having resumed work when her son was six months old, Preity believes her child has been accustomed to her routine well. “I am blessed he is adjusting that way, and sometimes when he cries and asks for me, you tell him, ‘Mamma is in the office’, and he calms down like a charm. So, yes, I would like to see my child more than usual but it’s alright, it’s a call of duty.”
“It’s more important to me that my child learns equality because he is a boy. He sees that his mother commands equal respect among people and in her department just like his father. So, now with this, and with our teachings in coming years, he should be able to understand what equality means from childhood, because it all starts as a child, right?” she adds.
“It’s more important to me that my child learns equality because he is a boy. He sees that his mother commands equal respect among people and in her department just like his father.”
Also Read: Challenging traditional gender roles
Public and vendors’ management
Being the most crowded in town, Gandhi Chowk and Siltham areas underwent troublesome chaos as soon as the lockdown was imposed. It was only a matter of time that Preity, along with her team, offered valuable solutions and made peace amongst the vendors, public and authorities.
“Being heavily crowded, the vegetable market went for a toss, smalls towns are different from big cities, the problems are different and there are distinctive challenges in getting everyone to the same page. I offered a sketch of how I want the market to reform, took Nagar Palika and my SPOs (Special Police Officers) with me and managed to enforce social distancing and discipline. Wasn’t me alone, everyone together set a great precedent.”
“It’s not always about you teaching those younger than you. I have recruited about 40 young SPOs and apart from working so enthusiastically, they’ve been teaching me so much with their fresh ideas.”
Leadership and its challenges
Preity, who has also commanded the district republic day parade as the first woman SP here, is redefining what it takes to be a leader. Believing that with multiple challenges comes multiple opportunities to make a difference, she says, it’s a correct balance which makes a police service department work.
“It’s challenging because, being a leader, you have to do the right thing. Rather than what people would like you to do.”
Making it a point to lift their morale every once in a while, she tries to be more indulgent as a leader. Be it a constable, a sub-inspector, or any rank for that matter, she understands that each person is precious. “It is not possible that a person is good for nothing. Everyone is good at something and we need to respect that.” As a commanding officer, her job is to push her team to do their best. Leading a huge team of more than a thousand people, she makes it a point to make herself available as much so they feel they can trust her and work together.
“Speaking of service, it’s not just the pandemic, we work day in and out otherwise, too. My police force here is also working in areas which don’t have facilities, they are working selflessly despite being susceptible to spread of infection. I’m proud to be commanding such a team, they need to know they are being valued.”
Standing up for women facing harassment
Preity has been extremely involved in dealing with issues concerning harassment and cyberbullying. Being a woman herself, she understands what girls go through when they are stalked. “I get calls and messages from so many girls sharing their problems with stalking. I remember as a young girl, if something like that happened to me, I would be crushed. So, I make sure these girls feel safe,” she states.
“When you are leading a district having fifty per-cent women, they are more confident in approaching you about eve-teasing and cyberbullying. I make my surveillance team cater to such issues on priority and I make sure to follow it up. This is not to say that men don’t or won’t understand. They do understand, but feeling and understanding are different things. As a woman, I can feel what these young girls go through.”
“When you are leading a district having fifty per-cent women, they are more confident in approaching you about eve-teasing and cyberbullying.”
Women police officers
She states that women police officers have been setting great examples in the country for young girls to take heed. Even in Kumaon, she adds, “we have women doing remarkably, for instance, SP Rachita is doing so well in Bageshwar.” Having been trained by Officer Manzil Saini in Mathura, she recalls how she learned what a powerful change can women leaders bring.
Women are more balanced in their approach, she maintains, adding that women are more empathetic towards a person’s problems. “I feel empathy has always been underestimated, it’s in fact, good to feel personal about matters, it helps us solve and deal with them more effectively.”
“I have been trained by a woman SSP and I don’t think I have met anyone who is as determined and clear-headed like her. This is to tell everyone that women make fantastic mentors and role models, and them guiding you is the most valuable thing ever.”
Her appeal to the public to only believe authentic information and not circulate fake news
With the world going through a traumatic time, Preity says, it’s important to share the right news and not create unnecessary panic. “To the citizens, I would say, be patient, try and cooperate with the administration. We’re executing everything only after a great deal of planning,” she informs.
Recommending that the public must raise questions for authentic information, she says this tendency of circulating just anything, without credibility, on social media needs to stop. What’s worse, she adds, is that even the well-read, people engage in it.
“When it comes to circulating fake news, stop believe the WhatsApp news channel.”
“I want to advise young girls and women to build confidence, always have confidence and wear it up to your sleeve.”
Preity advocates that it is sheer hard work and a lot of passion that leads to true success. “You can’t have someone else telling you that you can’t do a particular thing, please don’t start believing them.” Be brave and follow your dreams. Courage, she underlines, is not always about saying something, it’s also about knowing when to keep quiet and when to strike at the right time.
“There’ll always be one problem or another, one can’t think that ‘Ok, now I’ll start working hard when this issue is over.’ That’s not how life works, something or the other will keep happening. But the show has to go on, so the hard work and dedication must go alongside,” she says.