HYDERABAD: Senior IPS officer and Director of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Atul Karwal, has recently taken on the role of Director-General of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Not one who thinks of himself to be an achiever or a hero of any kind, he says he’s just a man doing the job he signed up for, as would anybody else. It’s his humble origins that continue to keep him the simple, grounded man that he is.
“I grew up in the unified State of Punjab, in places like Palwal, Phagwara, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. My father was an IAS officer and, like any other child of a government employee, I studied at DAV and lived a simple life,” he says. His father inspired him to join the services. “My father’s life, his principles and the kind of impact he had on people around me made me want to follow suit,” he shares.
The Gujarat-cadre IPS officer met his wife Anita Karwal (Secretary of the Department of School Education and Literacy), at the National Police Academy in 1988. But, he has more reasons than this to have a huge place for the Academy in his heart. “I was enamoured by everything that the Academy had to offer. I blossomed and grew the most to be where I am today, all because of the Academy. It taught me to face and fight my fears and not give up. This is why I wanted to go back to serve at the Academy years later,” Atul shares.
The officer has a great love for training: “In 34 years of my career, I trained officers for 10 years. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to train and shape many officers, who would go on to serve the public. These have been some of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”
Atul is an outdoors person. He loves adventure to no length — he’s an ultra-marathoner and a triathlete, a Black Belt in martial arts and trained in scuba diving. Don’t forget, sky diving too. But, his favourite feat has to be summiting the Mount Everest in 2008. “I have been fascinated by mountains since my college days. I yearned to go to the Everest base camp because Everest was like a goddess to me and I wanted to visit her for the longest time. When an All India Police Expedition to the peak invited volunteers, I sort of gatecrashed it but was told I cannot participate as I was not trained. Refusing to take no for an answer, I immediately set out to take a basic course in mountaineering, reapplied, got selected and was able to finally scale the peak!”
Crediting the Academy for his love for adventure, he shares another reason why he loves conquering such sports. “Back in school, I was a short and lean guy. I was bullied and pushed around by boys. But I would like to say that this insecurity worked to my advantage as it made me resilient — I took to martial arts and fitness. When you look back, what you see as a problem can be turned into an advantage if you are willing to overcome it,” he shares.
Atul is a family man, always. He started off as a disciplinarian and upon realising that it didn’t work with his daughters — Janvi and Tanvi — he turned into a doting father. “Both my daughters share my love for adventure. They’ve joined me on most of my scuba and sky diving activities. They have gone beyond me now, and have experienced the outdoors more than I have. I’ve always been there for them, despite having to stay away most times. We’re great friends and I want to believe I’ve done an ‘ok’ job as a father,” says the modest dad.
He continues, “My wife brings the much-needed balance into my life because I tend to be instinctive with my quirky decisions. Her wise and loving support keeps me sane. She’s a huge reason I was able to scale Everest, because she respected what I wanted to pursue and knew that I would regret not doing it. Her work and services to the people inspire me every day.”
On taking the reigns as the NDRF chief, he says, “The previous chief SN Pradhan is a great friend, we’re batchmates and he’s like family to us. I look up to him and his work as I take up this job. It’s an absolute privilege to have been chosen to be part of such a wonderful force that requires you to devote your life and energy to saving human lives. I’m also looking forward to a steep learning curve in my career.”
Before he signs off, Atul speaks about all that he would miss as he moves on from Hyderabad. “I’ve lived in Hyderabad earlier and coming back to the city gave me immense joy. People here have been very welcoming. The food, facilities and shopping arenas are what I enjoyed. My family and I love the Dakhini language and make many jokes about it too. Good friends, clean air, comfortable weather, the pleasant dawn and dusk, the rains and the beautiful Academy are all I will miss as I leave the very pretty city.”
As the new NDRF chief, Atul Karwal, moves on from Hyderabad, he looks back on his journey, shares about his love for the National Police Academy, adventure, summiting Mt. Everest and bidding the city goodbye