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Have you ever had an experience that changed how you think and even the course of your life?
For 31-year-old Ashish Mishra, a constable posted with the Inspector General’s Office in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, 25 February 2017 was the day that his life took a different turn.
“I was visiting a temple as I often did. But on that day I met an elderly lady who was sitting outside, weeping.” Mishra approached her and gathered that she had just lost her child, all because she wasn’t able to arrange for blood in time. Misha heard her out, consoled her, and left.
While he went back home and went about doing his work, the conversation with the elderly lady stayed with him.
An overnight change
“I was uneasy the entire night, and while I had donated blood in the past, that exchange struck a deep chord in me,” he says.
The very next morning, Mishra went to the blood bank and donated blood. He says, “I couldn’t save that lady’s child, but I knew somewhere someone would benefit from what I had just done.”
Just as he was leaving the blood bank, someone approached him in surprise. Mishra says, “I was in uniform, and the person came up to me and asked in surprise if I had donated blood. He went on to ask me if he could use the blood for his child.”
Mishra took the two conversations with strangers as a sign to do something more than just donate blood. And that’s what he did with his initiative, Police Mitra. While it initially started as a small WhatsApp group to connect potential blood donors with those in need, today, Police Mitra has over 1,000 members across eight zones in UP – and has saved over 1500 lives through the timely donation of blood.
“No one should lose their life because they were not able to get blood in time,” he mentions.
A desire to change the police image
“The image that the public has of the police force is unfortunately rather bad. Especially that of the UP police,” mentions Mishra, adding that one of the reasons he chose to go in uniform to donate blood the first time, was to establish that police personnel also cared.
“Its also partially the reason why Police Mitra came into being. I wanted to remove the fear that the public feels towards the police,” explains Mishra.
It also helps that Mishra’s seniors in the police have been incredibly supportive of this endeavour, that he juggles along with his full-time police job.
Anyone from the state who is in need of blood reaches out to Mishra, who then activates his group to find the right match. “This is a very exhausting job, and on several days I sleep as late at 3 am and am up in the morning for my duty,” he says.
From ridicule to appreciation
“It’s all good now since people see the value in what I am doing. This wasn’t the case when I started. Even my wife would often complain that I am immersing myself in Police Mitra and seem to have no time for anything else,” he mentions.
However, Mishra carried on regardless and claims that she, and several other close relatives, have come around and are supportive of his work.
While his work has received plenty of validation from various sources, he is especially proud of having represented the UP Police, at an international blood donors conference which was held in Bihar’s Rohtas district.
“There were donors from countries like France, Kenya, Japan and Nepal and it was so wonderful when someone came up to me and said that in the many years of organising the event they had never come across a policeman who was so active in blood donation,” he says.
Is it easier now to find blood donors?
“No. While the group has more than 1000 members, only about 10 per cent of them are active and ready to donate when called upon. There are many myths and misconceptions that people still harbour about blood donation, and that stops them from coming forward,” he asserts.
In the beginning, one could come forward to donate blood only if there was a dire need; it was not looked upon as a social responsibility. “That is changing slowly, and now I know many who do it without fail every three months,” he tells me with a smile.
Towards the end of the chat, Mishra makes a request. “Ma’am I have one request. Many publications have written about my story, but they all leave out the role that my superiors and colleagues have played in making Police Mitra a success. Could you please mention them?”
On Mishra’s request, here is a hat tip to DGP OP Singh, IG Prayagraj Kavindra Pratap Singh, who diligently donates blood every three months, IPS Akash Tomar, IPS Ajaypal, IPS Satyarth Anirudh Pankaj, IPS Vineet Jaiswal, IPS Sukirti Madhav, and IPS Jugul Kishore Tiwari.
If you wish to help Mishra expand his blood bank and reach several other states and cities, you can contact him at 9415107242.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)