A Fighter on Many Fronts
- Bhakti Kothari
- Published on 6 Sep 2021, 8:56 am IST
- 5 minutes read
The devastation of Kedarnath seven years ago was one of the biggest natural calamities to have struck the Himalayas. IPS officer Prahlad Meena played a crucial role in the resurrection of the holy shrine and making it accessible to the public. Now posted in the picturesque Himalayan region of Almora, he is in the midst of another battle: this time with Covid 19.
- IPS Prahlad Meena; SSP, Almora
‘A diligent officer and a compassionate human being’ can be used to define IPS Prahlad Narayan Meena. An officer of the 2012 batch from Uttarakhand Cadre, he worked courageously during the massive Kedarnath cloud burst disaster of June 2013 that claimed thousands of lives. Currently posted as the Senior Superintendent of Police in Almora, he is working enthusiastically for the people in this hard-hitting pandemic. In an exclusive conversation with Indian Masterminds, Mr. Meena shares his journey and achievements closely.
Mr. Meena was posted as the Superintendent of Police, Rudraprayag in mid-2015, right after Kedar valley was hit by a disastrous cloud-burst. The area was in ruins. The duty of restructuring Kedarnath again fell on him and his team. “It was extremely challenging for us because literally everything was washed away in the floods. But we slowly built everything and even gave a green signal for the yatra to begin. We rebuilt the tracks and accommodation spaces. It took around two years to regain all the facilities back. The yatris were quite skeptical to return, though, but we were able to convince them that everything is safe now,” he recalled.
Mr. Meena assures us that Kedarnath is nothing like it was before. The yatra is much safer and comfortable now. Accommodation, spaces and the tracks are much easier to tread upon.
“Once we reopened, we started receiving 30,000 pilgrims in a day, which was an achievement as this had never happened in the history of Kedarnath temple before! All our efforts paid off”, Mr. Meena told Indian Masterminds.
Managing Cast & Crew of Sushant Singh Rajput Starrer ‘Kedarnath’
Sushant Singh Rajput and Sara Ali Khan’s movie, Kedarnath’s shooting commenced in Kedar valley in mid-2017. This was the first ever movie that was shot in the valley. The responsibility of managing the crowd and protecting the movie cast was on Mr. Meena’s shoulders. It was a challenging task as the shooting was being done on the same track through which pilgrims cross to reach the temple.
“It was difficult to manage the public and make sure of the safety of the crew simultaneously. The weather of the region is also very unpredictable, so we had to make arrangements keeping that in mind too. The crew was huge, consisting of around 300-400 people and we also had to manage their accommodation which had to be separate from that of the yatris, as we did not wish to compromise on the pilgrim’s comforts and requirements. The shoot went on for about 45 days and we helped them by providing them with choppers so they could bring all their equipment to the location. It was hard but the cast and crew was very adjusting and managed accordingly” says Mr. Meena.
Fighting Covid in Almora
Almora is the oldest district in North India. It was established in the 1850s by the British rulers. Almora is a big region and when the national lockdown was declared, a lot of public from all over the country and also from outside India migrated back to the region. “Around 80,000 people came back, and it was difficult to manage because they were coming day-in and day-out and the lockdown had already commenced. We had to get them registered, checked, and provide them with accommodation. The lockdown was strict and public transport had stopped. We managed to send these people to their villages in different regions of the country through private buses, and we brought back our people from there. It was a huge crowd but with the help of the health department, administration, and common people, we were able to keep everything under control” Mr. Meena said.
“Ummeed: A Hope for the Underprivileged”
Mr. Prahlad, under the Uttarakhand government, launched an initiative called ‘Ummeed’ through which they used social media to reach out to those in need. It was difficult for people living in hilly terrains to reach medical stores, especially during peak lockdown, and get necessary, life- saving medicines for them or their family. “We opened a helpline called ‘Ummeed’ on platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter and enabled people to send their request or prescriptions for any kind of medicine they need, on the social media platform and we arranged for their medicines from different cities, and delivered it directly to their homes. We even provided them with oxygen cylinders, if needed. We did not take money from the poor in return for the medicine and requested the corporates to fund the initiative so we could carry on helping them. The initiative was a success not only in Almora but in various other parts of Uttarakhand, as well” Mr. Meena exclaimed. The initiative has gained a lot of support from all over India, now.
Welcoming the V.V.I.Ps
Mr. Meena took training in Dehradun and received his first posting as ASP, Roorkee but he considers his three and a half year tenure as the S.P. of Rudraprayag the most memorable of his life so far. This is when he had the honor of welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kedarnath, not once but thrice. Not only that, he also welcomed the President, Mr Ram Nath Kovind and the former president, (late) Mr Pranab Mukherjee at the holy shrine. Till date, he has received a number of ministers and celebrities, including the Union Home Minister Mr Rajnath Singh and the industrialists Ambanis to Kedarnath. These have been some of the proudest moments of Mr Prahlad Meena’s life.
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