Yathish Chandra explains why it's tough being a cop
Yathish Chandra, the 2011 batch IPS officer in the Kerala cadre, hailing from Davanagere, Karnataka and often termed as a fearless officer with a firm spine by his fans-cum-followers, has found himself many a time at the centre of controversies. Be it while being out of line with the Union Minister of state for finance, Pon Radhakrishnan during the Sabarimala episode, the alleged touching of elephant during ‘Anayoottu’ or the issue of making the lockdown violators do squats - he has always been a newsmaker all through his eventful tenure. The DPC of Kannur, in absolute contradiction with his tough public image, comes across as an extremely fun loving, jovial person, so much in love with Kerala and its people while catching him on an exclusive tete-a-tete, where the hardest task was getting him to spare some time from his round the clock duty.
A simple human being who derives pleasure in being together with his family and feeling blessed to carry his son on his shoulders, he states, “We should be doing our job to live happily and not the other way around.” Speaking about the life in Kerala, he smiles, “Kerala is too good, it’s people too nice and the politicians are amazing. I am not lying, but there is zero interference in Kerala. Initially I was a bit skeptical since people feed you with all sorts of misleading information that people of Kerala won’t trust you, they won’t listen to you, they don’t care for you, etc. But I don’t think so, do you think so?” he was quick to shoot a question back.
“From the days of sign language used to communicate with my driver while landing first in Kerala, I have come a long way in speaking decent Malayalam,” he reasons with relief. “In my initial days of posting, we did not have a special combat force to take on maoists. But seven years down the line, our Thunderbolt commandos are the world’s best anti-naxal force specialised in jungle warfare. Kerala has made me an expert in VIP security, election duty, and crowd handling,” he beams.
Then why do you want to go on a deputation away from Kerala? “Any officer who has completed nine years of service would be eligible for a deputation. It is something that happens automatically. I have not applied yet. But just imagine if no officer goes on deputation, who will work at the centre? There is a need to expand the horizon of knowledge for every officer. Working across the verticals and the length and breadth of India is the charm of an all-India officer,” he adds. He makes no fuss when queried about his future plans, “I can say I will be in the police force, but where the posting will be, that needs to be seen.”
Growing up as the only son of his parents, he had the freedom to do what he wished to. Pursuing class Xll with PCMB stream, he realised of being too soft-hearted to become a doctor during a hospital visit, thus inclining more towards engineering. He took the common entrance test, joined a medical college first after the counselling, but on second thoughts shifted to an engineering college to study Electronics and Communication.
“I never had civil services even in my mind,” he explains, “I didn’t even know what SP or a DC means.” While working for prestigious software companies with a dream to settle in the US, after getting successfully selected through campus interview, he consented to try for civil services on the insistence of a friend. “In the third attempt, I passed with rank 211, which meant I was going to be in the IPS. And the funniest part is that my friend who wanted to be in IPS is now in the US. while I am living the life that he wished for,” he laughs.
So, how has he gained the reputation as a daring officer? “I really don’t know, I just follow my mind and try to carry out the instructions that are handed over to me. I don’t think about anything else, but try to do my duty,” the answer comes on a serious note. But what about the criticism from people? “It’s a democratic country, where people have every right to speak about how they feel. We have to pay attention, rectify the mistakes if any and move ahead. Sometimes it does hurt when criticism comes without any reason as people tend to reach early conclusions. I do not let myself become too much disturbed with the positive or negative talk, but focus on the duty.”
How is the Covid pandemic situation in your District? Keenly he answers, “Everything is under control here and there is nothing to worry about. We are really proud of our work.” He then goes into the minutest details of action with pride in his eyes, “For Covid combat, knowledge is power. People don’t like to stay indoors and generally have a mind-set that they are immune to the virus, hence the virus has spread in this manner. So, we have created a big police control room at the district level, where we have created various verticals just like how a corporate structure works.
One vertical is exclusive for collecting the incoming data from various points like airports, railway stations and road borders. This operates 24 hours and data for the day will be frozen every midnight. Two copies of this incoming data will be sent simultaneously to two different verticals, one starts verification by video and audio calls, thus confirming the phone numbers, address and the arrivals. They create first level awareness about home quarantine within 24 hours of arrival.
Another copy is divided among the police stations and the SHO himself will visit the house in person and create alertness among the neighbours by pasting stickers about the home quarantine. A beat constable with a bike is detailed for taking daily attendance of the person who is under home quarantine for 14 days. The SHO on his first visit, also collects various detailed information regarding the travel history, latitude and longitude of the house, number of inmates in the house, neighbourhood details, ward member details and so on. It’s a gigantic master database in my control room, with the details of more than 50,000 people who have entered the district from outside the state and country as on date.
Each day, the beat constable going on the bike will be given an average of 20 houses to cover. So I have around 400 policemen roaming around telling the quarantined persons not to get out of the house and that the police are checking on them.
District Crime Records Bureau at the control room acts as another vertical, collecting and maintaining all the data as well as compiling it for the analysis. This is also used for verifying if the constable has carried out the visits. A call will be placed to one of the 20 houses and they would be asked to name the policeman and to inform whether he had arrived or not. The direction for the constable is to visit each house at different timings each day so that the quarantined person can’t predict the time of arrival. After 14 days, the person will be removed from the constable‘s list but will still continue to be on my list. If any of them tests positive, we would check all his records and convey every detail to the doctor.
Another vertical is for investigating every confirmed case of Covid. A special investigation team is being formed with the job of tracking the contacts and to check if the infected person was under strict quarantine or not. In the unlikely event of a possible lapse in quarantine the team would track his contacts, then we would compare all the data, alert all those who have come into contact with him and keep all of them under quarantine. But in some cases like that of lorry drivers, where the quarantine is not mandatory, the contacts can’t be clearly traced. In that scenario, we would close the whole area which would be then declared as containment zone. For the tracked primary and secondary contacts, this whole process of ensuring quarantine repeats.” The hardwork was evident in each word he uttered.
Asking about what he had to say about the controversy related to touching the elephant during ‘Anayoottu’ (feeding the elephants as a part of ritual), he expressed surprise, “How do you think we can feed an elephant without touching him?” He exclaims, “I still don’t know why there was a complaint against only me while as per the tradition, the Minister, Mayor, Collector, Commissioner i.e. me and other people took turns to feed the animal.” The strong values in his mind come to the forefront while he asserts, “Here we are getting to learn so much from that event to respect animals, care for them and recognise their importance in the eco-system. As a father, I was privileged to give my son an opportunity to imbibe these points.”
“And that was no Corona time, so everyone there was feeding the elephants,” he jokes.
“My family support is 100 percent though they feel pained, scared about the risks and complain too at times. I have the same feelings of an ordinary person while taking on the mafia or handling dangerous tasks because we all are human beings, but the training that we get has prepared us to withstand any pressure and face the toughest challenges.”
And what was it all about making the people do squats during lockdown? “Would the people obey if police go to them with folded hands and plead to please go home and not get out of their homes? Would the public listen to police if they go on begging to arrest a person? Even the CrPC allows limited use of force to enforce law. We have to do what is required during a situation to execute the orders from superiors. Even the incident of alleged dragging of a child with his father during PM visit is misplaced, as the media cited two different incidents and mixed the visuals of two different places into one where I was not present at all. In fact no child was dragged or even touched, but yes, the father who had come to block the road keeping his children as human shield was forcibly arrested. This was done for the legal purpose of clearing the road for the PM convoy movement, and instructions were clear from the DGP himself.”
“I don't have anything personal against anyone. I don’t mind even sharing a cup of tea with a protester, after a lathi charge to control stone pelters, because I don’t mix up my professional and personal lives. I am not a social reformer either. I would always strive to do my best in the duty assigned to me.” He sounds much disciplined and mature here.
“As a student, I was pretty good in extracurricular activities - drama, software programming, coding etc., but no reading of novels at all. I can’t read more than three pages at a time. But I do read articles, journals, etc.” He pauses for a second and continues, “I love to travel, trek, swim, play online games, and I watch series as well as movies and really have a lot of friends. I even listen to power filled music while working out.”
Can you remember something interesting about your interview from the UPSC? “Actually we had a good conversation for about 45 minutes. But they were not happy initially when I said I don’t read!” he remembers. “But I convinced them enough that not everyone reads books. We have to derive pleasure from other activities also. Then they asked about the history of India and America, how we can compare both in terms of historical and social perspective, and I told them what I knew! At the end, they gave me pretty good marks,” again the famous smile flashes across his face.
His fitness challenge video has gone viral, I pointed out. “The training we had at the IPS Academy was world class. It changed my perspective towards life and fitness. I was a bit on the heavier side while securing IPS. But during training we had to learn horse riding, swimming, bungee jumping, river rafting, hand to hand combat and what not! The list was too long. Post training I started building my body for fitness and stamina - with the view that we should not get tired if required to walk 10 kilometres, nor should we collapse after standing for 8 hours.”
“How did you get the courage to engage in an argument with the Union Minister at Sabarimala. “See, it was not planned, I was just trying to do what the situation demanded. Even the description of the situation depends on the perspective of each person. Some say I was right and others say I was wrong. For me, I was just trying to do according to the direction passed on to me by my superiors. Law says what to do and I never do anything according to my personal preferences.”
In the midst of the dialogue he cautions, “The real policing is entirely different from what we see in films. In reality, the police have to help the people and serve the society without judging what is moral and what is immoral. I am an officer appointed by the government to perform a particular duty according to the constitution. A police officer cannot satisfy or please everyone. When there is a problem, one side will curse the police while the other side whose issue has been resolved will be appreciative,” he related from his experience.
“I think people like me for what I do, otherwise why would they follow me? No one would spend time for someone whom they hate! But I do not see myself as someone great or that I have done something great. I still have so much to learn, so much to accomplish, so I try to observe and grasp all the good points from everyone," he signs off with not even a trace of annoyance after the long session. Pretty fast, he transformed into the role of father for a game with his son and it was quite a delight watching the father-son duo vanishing into their own special world of happiness!
(The author is Director -TGL Foundation, Chairperson CSA, Editor -The Intl Journal, Sr Dir FWO)
HEAR YATHISH CHANDRA TALK ABOUT COVID PREVENTION ACTIVITIES