Khaki Dream

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A social worker turned jailer is happy to help make lives of inmates comfortable. Heena Muzzafar reports her journey

Saba-Shawal---SP In 2012, when Saba Shawl, now 29, cleared Public Service Commission (PSC) exam for the post of Superintendent of Police for Prisons, it was an “unorthodox” choice.

“Are you going to be a lady jailer? How come that is possible,” was how Saba’s relatives reacted to her selection.

Initially, recalls Saba, there was lot of criticism from people around. “It was hard for people to see a local lady in khaki manning jails,” feels Saba. “But thanks to my parents and colleagues I managed to stay positive.”

Saba, who hails from uptown Peerbagh locality in Srinagar, after completing her masters in Social Work (2012), started working as senior Community Development Consultant at Government Polytechnic for Women, Bemina. “I always wanted to help people,” said Saba.

Six months later, Saba joined Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), as Capacity Development in-charge, to realise her dream of working for the people at grass-root level. “I trained both staff and youth at IGSSS,” recalls Saba.

Then, one day, Saba’s father, who was supportive of her work, suggested her to appear for PSC exam, and help the society in a better way. “This exam was as tough as cracking IPS,” said Saba. “There was just one post of SP Prisons in open merit.”

After her selection, Saba was sent to Lucknow in Uttar Pardesh, for six months training programme. “The training part was hectic, rather herculean task for me. Besides, I was the only lady there,” said Saba.

This was Saba’s first solo trip outside Kashmir. Once back, she joined as SP central jail at Kothbalwal in Jammu. From there she was transferred to Kupwara jail. “I have almost served in every jail during my probation period,” said Saba.

Ask Saba how life changed after joining police and she is quick to say: being young and smart a number of boys used to approach me during university days, but once I became SP, lot of them wrote ‘sorry sister’ on my Facebook wall.

But soon Saba realised that her real calling lies in social work. “So I decided to work at the administrative level rather than in the field,” said Saba. “I was now part of the policy making team.”

There, Saba helped frame policies for the welfare and rehabilitation of prisoners. Saba also introduced various correctional programmes for the inmates, besides conducting recreational programmes across J&K. Apart from that, Saba organized three national-level Residential Training Programmes for prison officers.

Saba is also a chairperson of the complaints committee for matters related to sexual harassment at work places.

With Diploma in Conventional Management, Saba also handles applications regarding RTI as Public Information Officer. She is PRO and staff officer to DGP Prisons as well.

Besides, Saba is the executive editor and designer of a monthly newsletter and a yearly magazine that covers events and activities of prisons in J&K.

When Saba joined, a number of her colleagues thought she can’t handle the stress even for a month. “It has been three years and I am at ease.”

Saba adds with a smile that she is satisfied with her job. “This is what I wanted to do always.”

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