When Dr. Pritpal Kaur Batra, a 2016-batch officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS), was first posted in the remote eastern border district of Tuensang in Nagaland as a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), she was immediately struck by the generous and giving nature of its residents, who accorded her a warm welcome.
“Aside from the sheer beauty of the place, what touched me most was how genuine and kind people were to me when I arrived there in 2018. Despite my being an outsider, they made me feel at home. That’s what inspired me to go above and beyond the call of duty,” says Dr. Kaur, currently serving as the Superintendent of Police in Noklak district, to The Better India.
Using her long standing passion for and knowledge of teaching and farming, Dr. Kaur conducted free coaching classes for UPSC and state service aspirants, bought books and other study materials for them with her own money, and treated, counselled and taught drug addicts new vocational skills like organic farming.
As a result, Dr. Kaur, a native of Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, has made a real mark among the communities of Naga Hills who have been deleteriously affected by rampant underdevelopment, proliferation of synthetic drugs, HIV-AIDS, and a long-running insurgency.
As SDPO in Tuensang, she did not just deal with prisoners and criminals at the police station, but interacted with various schools, churches, student unions, and civil society organizations. She was captivated by the sheer potential of the young students she met and was determined to do something for them.
“Tuensang is situated on the easternmost fringes of our Nagaland. The district is quite segregated from the rest of the state because of the hilly terrain. There were many students who had completed their graduation but were unable to get the right sort of guidance for cracking state or Union civil service exams. In Nagaland, the government remains one of the biggest employers. For many youngsters, getting a job with the state is a way out of poverty and prevents them from succumbing to the pitfalls of anti-social activities like drugs,” says Orenthun Kikon, the Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC), who helped Dr. Kaur setup coaching classes for the students.
Dr. Kaur decided to set up coaching classes for the Union civil services exam on a trial basis. The local administration advertised this initiative using social media and received a good response. The Superintendent of Police, Bharat Markad, helped her by sanctioning the use of the conference hall on the office premises and even supported the venture with money to purchase study materials.
Dr. Kaur started coaching with a class of 9 students that eventually burgeoned to over 50. Using her own salary, she sourced textbooks from Hyderabad in the south and Dimapur, the state capital of Nagaland. Aside from Orenthun, she was also joined by two other EAC officers Kevithito and Moasunep, who assisted her in teaching the syllabus for the Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) exams to the eager students.
“In total, there were 53 students, some of whom cleared the Nagaland CM scholarship exam while others cracked the departmental exams of the state government. Many will be writing the UPSC exam this year,” says Dr. Kaur.
She has continued the same initiative in her new posting as SP of Noklak district. Aside from free coaching classes, she also engaged in a host of other initiatives like working with the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) unit of Tuensang district to train local farmers in modern organic farming techniques, food processing, and assisting them in sourcing raw materials, seeds, and other logistics. Assisting her in this initiative was Dr. Shisarenla Aier of KVK.
Another significant initiative was conducting anti-narcotics campaigns across schools and colleges, and using her medical training to treat drug addicts using a combination of opioid substitution treatment (OST) and counselling.
Orenthun gives another example of the commendable work done by Dr. Kaur: “In districts like Noklak and Tuensang, the prevalence of HIV-AIDS and drug use is particularly high. In August last year, I had received a list of 74 children born with HIV-AIDS, most of whom were orphans. Working closely with the district police, we pooled in our resources to purchase regular meals for them. Dr. Kaur would look after these children. This is just a glimpse of the yeoman services she has been doing and continues to do so.”
Going beyond treatment & counselling in Noklak
Noklak is the youngest and the 12th district of Nagaland state in India and the majority of its inhabitants are from the Khiamniungan tribe, a major Naga tribe.
Similar to Tuensang district, Noklak suffers from rampant underdevelopment, lack of basic infrastructure like schools, roads, and hospitals, and is besieged by problems of drug proliferation and HIV-AIDS.
“Being the police, we would conduct many raids, slap multiple NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act cases, but as a doctor I thought it would make sense to go one step further and give them OST treatment and counselling. After coming to Noklak, I decided that further steps like teaching them livelihood skills, particularly farming, was necessary so that these addicts undergoing rehabilitation treatment may earn their own living once their treatment finishes,” says Dr. Kaur.
In collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the local OST centre, Khiamniungan Baptist Church, and Khiamniungan Tribal Council, the Noklak Police organised a series of seminars in late September 2020, where they taught apiculture, organic farming, and vermicomposting to 120 addicts undergoing treatment. “Even if 10 out of 120 pick up valuable lessons and start earning with sustainable careers in farming, it will be a great success,” she says.
If one listens to various local officers and her superiors, it’s clear that Dr. Kaur is heavily invested in working for the people of Nagaland.
“Dr. Kaur is a down-to-earth, hardworking and empathetic officer. She exhibits energy and positivity, which helps in interacting with people and solving problems. See, Nagas have their own traditional mechanisms for sorting out matters. As a result, people do not approach the police and courts for redressal of differences, conflicts or crimes. This has meant that the role of formal policing is very rudimentary in most districts. So, while policing evolves, it has to be buttressed with a strong dose of empathy and ‘connect’ with the locals. Her anti-drug initiatives, coaching classes for UPSC and work with the community have established a better connection with local communities,” says Rupin Sharma, former Director General of Police, Nagaland.
“Nagaland has seen many officers from the All-India Civil Services serve in the state. What seems rather apparent is a fresh infusion of energy and motivation that Pritpal has brought to her work. Her conviction for the causes she believes in is incredibly strong. I can attest to the fact that a lot of youngsters here look up to her as a source of inspiration,” says another EAC officer who served with Dr. Kaur in Tuensang, but wants to remain anonymous.
(Edited by Nishi Malhotra)