KOCHI: As a teenager, he used to push carts loaded with cement and sandbags through the streets of Kozhikode. He was in high school and took up the ‘part-time job’ to aid his parents and six siblings.
It was a struggle to manage school and the taxing job. He failed his Class 10 exams. The part-time job continued, and he continued to push carts, dreaming of clearing the exams and joining a college. That became his mission.
That boy accomplished his dream, and he is today known as “IG Vijayan” across Kerala. The story of Inspector General (Anti-Terrorism Squad) P Vijayan is the stuff of legends. Now, Dr Amrith G Kumar, a professor at Central University’s School of Education, has authored a book that chronicles Vijayan’s initiatives and outreach programmes, which made him a truly ‘people-friendly’ police officer.
Titled Possibilities of Power — Socio-Cultural Experiments by P Vijayan IPS, the book takes the reader through the officer’s pet civil projects, especially the Student Police Cadets (SPC) programme, from inception to implementation. “Power has a lot of possibilities,” says Amrith. “Vijayan realised that; he knew dealing with law and order was not enough.
He engaged with the public, ensured their participation, and inspired children to become responsible citizens. Most importantly, he inspired children to dream.”Amrith first heard about Vijayan when the SPC programme was launched in 2010. “Initially, I was sceptical of the programme,” he recalls.
“However, I met Vijayan as part of a committee and discussed the project in detail. That motivated me to do some research; I spoke to students, teachers and police officers. The insights led to research on other projects of Vijayan. And I believed they deserved to be documented. That was how I started writing the book.”
It took two years and multiple discussions with Vijayan to complete the book, says Amrith. “Most of his projects focus on students, children.... SPC, Project HOPE, etc,” he notes.“Interestingly, Vijayan’s Punyam Poonkavanam initiative, a mega clean-up drive in Sabarimala, was connected to his own childhood.”
‘I explore sustainable solutions’
Vijayan credits “dedicated teamwork” for the success of his projects. “Each officer has a set of duties associated with a particular posting,” he says.“While carrying out tasks, I always explore efficient and effective ways of execution. And, when problems arise, I look for sustainable or permanent solutions That is how all these projects came to be.”
Vijayan recalls a case related to a series of thefts when he served as the commissioner of Kozhikode city. About 30 teenagers were rounded up at the Medical College police station, in connection with the robbery of around 50 bikes, several gold chains and computers.
“When children get caught in such cases, they will be sent to juvenile homes,” he says. “There, mingling with inmates of similar backgrounds may eventually push them into more crimes. So, what is a more sustainable solution to correct their behaviour and integrate them with mainstream society?”
Vijayan says when children start developing bad habits, it indicates the failure of parents, teachers and the whole society. “That is how I got the idea of Our Responsibility to Children (ORC),” he says.
The project tries to identify and scientifically address the deviancies and vulnerabilities of children. It also aims to enhance life skills, address risks, and promote mentoring and good parenting. When the pilot project in Kozhikode gave positive results, the Kerala government implemented it across the state.
Vijayan believes Malayalis break many laws in their daily life. Some even take “pride” in flouting basic civic laws such as throwing waste on the streets, and spitting or smoking in public, he quips.
“Such disrespect to civic laws and responsibilities was evident in Sabarimala. That is why I initiated the Punyam Poonkavanam project,” he says.
“We roped in devotees, many of whom are responsible for the garbage, to clean up the pilgrimage area. Now, the project yields positive results, and most have stopped bringing plastic.”
Vijayan grew up watching his father go to Sabarimala every year, notes the book. Thus, it was a project born out of childhood memories.
‘Let children dream’
The officer reveals many of his projects were inspired by his childhood. Project HOPE is another example, he says.“Not many students in Kerala fail an examination or drop out of studies these days,” he adds.“But when some do, that affects them deeply. They tend to get alienated and develop serious inferiority complexes and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts. HOPE aims to help such children bounce back in their studies and life. Every year, through the project, we help about 1,000 students pass the exams and increase their employability skills.”
Vijayan has served in all the main cities, such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Thrissur and Kozhikode. “Thiruvananthapuram was the hot seat, as it often turns into a political battlefield,” he quips.“In Thrissur, memorable responsibilities included crowd management for the pooram. In Kochi, drugs and gangs were top issues. And Kozhikode had a little bit of all these issues.”
Besides the responsibilities of the anti-terrorism squad, Vijayan heads the social police division and the Kerala Books and Publications Society. Vijayan’s wife, Cochin Port Trust chairperson Dr M Beena IAS, is also known for popular civic projects.
Last but not the least, the boy who dreamed of a college education is now helping children to dream like him. “I believe in the theory, it might sound a bit sappy, that if your dream is sincere, the universe will conspire to make it a reality,” he says. “And I want the youth to dream without limits. And work responsibly and confidently to achieve them.”
Title: Possibilities of Power - Socio-Cultural Experiments by P Vijayan IPS
Author: Dr Amrith GKumar
Publisher: DC Books