Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Zone V, Harssh Poddar was honoured with Lokmat Maharashtrian of the Year Award 2019 at a ceremony held at National Sports Club of India, Mumbai Stadium on Wednesday.
He was conferred the award in presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thakre, former minister Rajendra Darda and other dignitaries for his outstanding works, particularly in Malegaon in Nashik district.
Poddar, who completed his degree from National Law School in 2008 and did his masters in Law from Oxford in 2009, was posted in Malegaon as Additional Superintendent of Police from May 2017 to August 2018 – roughly a period of 16 months.
However, during his short tenure, he brought some remarkable changes not only in improving the law and order situation but also establishing a strong connect with the local population and involving them in constructive initiatives.
Talking to TLN about his entering the police force and stint in Malegaon, Poddar, who also practiced as a barrister in London for a brief period said, he came back to India and appeared for the UPSC in 2012. Clearing the examination in the first attempt, the young officer joined Indian Police Services (IPS) and chose Maharashtra Cadre in 2013.
When asked as to why did he choose Maharashtra, Poddar said “Maharashtra has a strong and healthy administrative structure compared to other states. Any good work is recognised and praised. And lastly, Maharashtra Police are very professional and are looked at with much respect.
Recalling his tenure in Malegaon– the place infamous for communal riots since long, Poddar said, maintaining law and order was necessary and a challenging task, for which strong law enforcement was necessary. “Immediately after joining, I prioritised the things. The first on the list was to eliminate gangsters’ menace.” Without wasting time, the police machinery swopped on illegal businesses that of satta dens, illicit liquor dens, all the illegal activities including flesh trade and bridled the rising crime.”Within nine months the police cracked down on illegal trade worth Rs 3 crore giving a message loud and clear that it is the land of law,” Poddar said. Stringent steps were taken like slapping MCOCA, MPDA against the violators, externing them from the city limits. This ultimately stopped the funding to rioters and checked their activities too, he added.
Communal tension in Malegaon always made the news headlines. Referring to the issue, Poddar said there was a huge community divide between Hindu-Muslims and Maratha-Dalits. This was one of the basic reasons for riots, which involved maximum youth force. “After studying the issue, I found the youth had no aim or ambition in their lives. We then launched project Udaan.”
The youths were guided about bright career opportunities in field of engineering, medical, police force, army etc. Free career guidance lectures and sessions were organised for them every fortnight, which gave a meaning and direction to their lives. Till date around 24,000 youths have availed benefit of the initiative.
The initiative yielded remarkable results. Not only it brought the law and order situation in control but also brought the local community close to the police. “When the entire State was on boil during the Bhima-Koregaon issue, Malegaon, which was otherwise known for communal tension was total peaceful and life was normal, said DCP Poddar.