Tejdeep Kaur Menon And The Telangana State Special Protection Force

Wind Under The Wings Award (2016)

Tejdeep Kaur Menon and the Telangana State Special Protection Force Poetry is part of the eco-arsenal of this enterprising police officer whose unstinted efforts, leadership and innovative solutions have helped revitalise a vital lake system in Telangana.

Tejdeep Kaur Menon, an IPS officer of the 1983 cadre, has served in several capacities, beginning her career as an Assistant Superintendent of Police to rising up to her current role as the Director General of Police with the Telangana State Special Protection Force (TSSPF) and the Commissioner of the Government Printing and Stationary Departments. She is the first woman officer to be appointed as the DIG of Police of a range in the state. A vocal advocate of women’s rights, she has been particularly passionate about fighting crimes against women. Equally deft at wielding the pen, she has published four poetry anthologies with the core theme of women’s empowerment and nature conservation. Passionate about social and environmental issues, her crusade to save the Ameenpur lake has now become the stuff of legend. On discovering the utter degradation of the lake near the Telangana Special Protection Force Training Academy, she swiftly undertook a multi-pronged approach that focused on bringing the community together to clean and protect the lake ecosystem. Says Tejdeep, “The Ameenpur lake faced a barrage of assaults in the form of fishing, encroachment, illegal constructions, pollution, water extraction through bore wells, tankers, sand and granite quarrying. I embarked on a series of interventions, systematically tackling one problem at a time.” Tejdeep began by first motivating her own staff – TSSPF personnel – to become ecovolunteers and work along with local NGOs Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) and Friends of Flora and Fauna (FoFF) Society during the weekends to pick up litter and educate locals. She petitioned the District Collector to allow the TSSPF to adopt the lake and the adjoining village. Through orientation sessions for fishermen and villagers, TSSPF cajoled them into adopting remedial programmes. They initiated a daily waste collection along with the village panchayat and introduced health screening camps to highlight their high exposure to pollutants. Slowly but surely, villagers began to appreciate their efforts and made a commitment to protect the avian and aquatic life of the lake. TSSPF then stood up to polluting industries that dumped their waste in the lake and had virtually blocked the inlet channels. With the help of the police and the Water Supply and Sewerage Board, they stopped unscrupulous operators from drilling bore wells and installing pump sets. They also used the Telangana State Pollution Control Board, who sampled and tested the water and recommended setting up sewage treatment plants with funds provided by the industries. The TSSPF also began working with school children to ensure that they understood the vital importance of protecting waterbodies. Tejdeep is now lobbying with several government agencies to help stop rock and sand mining around the lake and to remove encroachers. TSSPF has indeed been the wind beneath her wings in her sustained efforts that have now ensured that Ameenpur lake is the first waterbody in the country to be declared a Biodiversity Heritage Site. Plans are also afoot to bring the lake under Mission Kakatiya, the state government’s flagship project to save waterbodies. For Menon, nothing is more symbolic about the success of her efforts than the return of the flamingos to the lake after several years.

Even as Menon and TSSPF continue to secure Ameenpur’s future, they have begun to replicate their efforts by undertaking similar clean-up campaigns at the Fox Sagar lake and in the Anantagiri Hills. TSSPF and Tejdeep Menon have clearly shown that change for the better is possible… one only has to be the change.

By Lakshmy Raman, Executive Editor, Sanctuary Asia