In the 110-year old history of Maharashtra Police Academy, Meena Tupe, the 27-year-old daughter of a poor farmer from drought-prone Beed, became the first policewoman to receive the “sword of honour”. After passing an examination conducted by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission, she successfully completed a 13-month rigorous training programme, competing with 503 men and 245 women to earn the coveted sword. She was also given the Ahilyabai Holkar award for being the best woman cadet and Yashwantrao Chavan Gold Cup for being the best all-round cadet of the batch. She received the award from the hands of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at an official ceremony in Nashik this week. The training academy does not differentiate between the male cadets and female cadets. Both have to undergo equally rigorous training under testing conditions and pass the same indoor tests.
But for a feat which continues to put a smile on her face and pride in her gait, Meena first had to fight gender bias on the home front. This was in addition to the devastating struggle with poverty and lack of opportunities in the backward region of Marathwada.
What sailed her through the difficult times was her immense self-determination. The success was possible due to support from her father and the indomitable spirit of her parents, she told The Sunday Guardian in a telephonic interview from her native village Dagdi Shahjanahpur in Marathwada’s Beed district.
DREAM COMES TRUE
For Meena Tupe, receiving the sword of honour was like a dream come true. “The last time any man from Beed won the award was 40 years ago. I wanted my name written in the history of the academy,” she said.
When asked how she overcame financial limitations, she said, “I find myself lucky that I am the daughter of a farmer. The children of distressed farmers must realise that we are not physically challenged, or mentally unsound. I hardly got anything that my peers had. I used to long for nice clothes, toys, other items. But I realised that I could earn all that through hard work. I never gave up on perseverance. It was not just for the job, but for self-respect and empowerment. Today, I feel I have proven that women are no less than men. The children of distressed farmers should realise that they can change their fate through hard work.”
Meena, who always excelled in her studies, said that she studied harder for fear that she would have to get married if she failed to perform well.
Her relatives and villagers ridiculed her for pursuing her studies. “All my three sisters were married by the time I passed Class 10. My mother did not want me to study further as she wanted me to either get married or help her with the daily chores. The villagers used to taunt me by saying there was no point in educating myself. Today, they praise me for my determination,’ Meena told The Sunday Guardian.
‘I DIDN’T WANT HER TO GET EDUCATED’
Her mother told reporters that she did not want her daughter to get educated. But she could not do anything faced with her daughter’s determination. “We are from an ordinary village where there is no tradition of education. I used to think that a girl child getting educated till Class X was more than enough,” Shashikala Tupe told local reporters. “But today, we feel so proud of her. She has put our names and the name of our village on the map of the world. I have been unwell for the last 10 years. She has taken care of me for the last five years. I have grown her up on bhaaji-bhaakri (vegetable and millet bread). What else can the poor give to their daughter? But look, she has grown up to be so big on it,” she said.
Meena’s father Bhivsen Tupe said Meena had made them very proud. “Till Class 10, she slogged on the fields. She ploughed the field, sowed seeds. She did all my work. I used to work as a daily wage labourer and provide money to her. We are illiterates. We cannot even sign. But this girl has made us famous due to her hard work. I trusted her. My heart is content now. For me, a son and a daughter are the same,” he said.
‘WOMEN PROVING THEMSELVES’
Maharashtra Director General of Police, Praveen Dixit congratulated Meena Tupe and described her as a very promising officer. “This is the first time that a lady police sub-inspector has emerged as the best cadet. She appears to be a very promising officer, and we are looking forward to her great performance in her long career,” he told The Sunday Guardian.
On the increasing number of women entering the police force after the 33% reservation scheme, he said: “Though the government has a stipulated 33% quota, women should cross that mark,” he said.
The director of the Maharashtra Police Academy, Nawal Bajaj said he was happy to witness this milestone. “Earlier, when we started training women police officers, we used to have a different set-up for them. There used to be different classrooms, different grounds, different messes and different hostels for them. But now, except for the hostel, everything else is common for both men and women police officers,” he said, adding that these factors made Meena Tupe’s victory more spectacular.
CLASS I OFFICER
Meena Tupe, overwhelmed by the public response to her success, said she now aspired to become a Class I officer. “I have been called by the Beed SP for a meeting. I keep getting calls asking me to attend felicitation programmes. I go wherever people call me. Everyone among my relatives and family is very happy. Relatives have been thronging my house since they have heard the news,” she said.