Catch Them Young!
- Indian Masterminds Bureau
- Published on 19 Sep 2020, 8:38 pm IST
- 6 minutes read
He is an IPS officer with a difference. Among the several youth oriented programmes which he initiated in Maharashtra, one has brought down juvenile delinquency in several cities of the state.
- Harssh Podder- the change making IPS officer
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” says IPS officer Mr Harssh Poddar. An IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, Mr Poddar has impacted a large number of lives. His brainchild, the Youth Parliament Project, has significantly brought down juvenile delinquency in several pockets of Maharashtra, inspiring over 4200 youngsters to fight against crime.
Hailing from Kolkata, Mr Poddar always seemed to have a penchant for leadership.
He did his schooling from La Martiniere Boys, Kolkata. Speaking with Indian Masterminds, he said he will credit his school for putting more emphasis on co-curricular activities, instead of taking the traditional route of `rote memorization’, at a time when medicine and engineering where considered the only respectable careers. After earning his BA LLB degree from the West Bengal National University of Judicial Sciences, he won the prestigious Chevening Scholarship and attained a masters degree in International and Constitutional law from Balliol College of the University of Oxford.
Oxford Gave Him Direction
“When I was a graduate student of law at Balliol College at Oxford,,’’ recalled Mr Poddar, “I found myself becoming part of an environment that for centuries now has spawned world leaders and social reformers. Though it was intimidating in the beginning, it later on encouraged me to think big. Oxford also ingrained in me a strong work discipline and the ability to think through complex issues.’’
Throughout the course of his impressive career in the Indian Police Services, this officer has spearheaded several successful and out of the box initiatives, such as the Youth Parliament Project, Smart Police Program and the Udaan Project. Besides, he has delved into diverse issues such as juvenile delinquency, communal riots, terrorism, radicalization, fake news and mental health.
Youth Parliament Project
Mr Poddar’s most talked about scheme till date is the Youth Parliament Project. When this initiative was implemented, it brought about many positive changes. This initiative found its roots in Malegaon, with an aim to counter juvenile delinquency, which at that point of time was skyrocketing in many parts of Maharashtra. In 2015, before the project was started, Maharashtra ranked 2nd in India as far as juvenile crimes were concerned. Of the national total of 31,396 crimes, Maharashtra contributed 5,482 cases. Currently, the state ranks 5th in crimes committed by juveniles. Of the national total of 2,037, Maharashtra contributed 211 cases. Undoubtedly, this feat couldn’t have been possible without the dedication and hard work of officers like Harssh Podder and his team members.
In this project, a community model was designed and it was the duty of the area’s police officials to impart awareness and guidance to children and teenagers. However, the top-down nature of this model was extremely problematic as students didn’t showcase any positive response. In order to solve this problem, Mr Poddar, as the then ASP of Malegaon, took inspiration from a project that he once worked in while he was still at the police academy. In this unconventional workshop for the blind, children were divided into small groups and asked to draft laws for the differently-abled instead of just listening to lectures on rights and awareness. This allowed children to work as their own agencies and allowed them to examine the subject in depth. The eminent police officer decided to use the same idea in order to tackle juvenile delinquency. The main goal of the initiative was to provide the youth with a platform where they could take action against anti-social tendencies. The aim was to break the links between alienation and crime.
The project gained momentum after the Youth Parliament Project was started in Nath Valley School and Police Public School in Aurangabad. Students were divided into teams and addressed topics like sexual offences, naxalism, terrorism etc. Each team had to play the roles of the three major stakeholders- the government, the society and the police. Also, they had to come up with solutions regarding the problems that they were asked to address. Assessments were conducted, according to which, this bottom-up approach led to increased awareness amongst the students. These students, in turn, spread the message to their families and friends. After this initiative was found successful, it was implemented in other districts of Maharashtra as well.
Other Youth Oriented Programmes
Aside from this highly effective approach, Mr Poddar also gave wings to the ‘Udaan’ project. The objective of this project is to provide career counseling and free coaching for entrance tests to all the local students.
Furthermore, the communal riots and radicalization issues in places like Malegaon have ebbed mainly because of the efforts made by Mr Poddar and his team. He also launched the Smart Police Program wherein ISO certifications were provided to police stations in districts like Kolhapur, Aurangabad and Malegaon- thus ensuring that their services were in line with the international standards.
During the novel COVID 19 pandemic, the eminent officer once again proved that stringent and persistent efforts can lead to desired results. Despite intense lockdown, Pune and its nearby districts were severely affected with coronavirus cases, however, Beed, had zero cases for two months and this is all thanks to their effective policing.
As a result of his outstanding work, officer Harssh Poddar was conferred with a GFiles Award for Exceptional Contributions to Crime Prevention in 2018.
Imparting pearls of wisdom to the youth, Mr Podder said, “People in our country, for instance media individuals, are problem-oriented. Instead of consistently lamenting about the problem, it is imperative to think from a solution oriented perspective. We need to think about what can be done to curb the problem at hand. Also, it is important for us, as citizens, to gain knowledge about Indian history, geography, agriculture, economic conditions, caste and religious discourses and other significant aspects. Until you know these things, you can’t formulate solutions in regard India.’’
Officers like Mr Harssh Poddar are a rarity. We need more of them.
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