BIHAR: Visiting a slum is not a very pleasant experience for people who are fortunate enough to live in other places. Most of us avoid going to one. But for this police officer in Bihar, it’s almost like duty. He likes interacting with children from the underprivileged section of society. Trying to make life happy and meaningful for them, he takes care of them by playing with them, encouraging them to study and supporting them in whatever way he can.
Meet Rakesh Kumar, a deputy superintendent of police in Jamui district, where Maoists have a considerable presence. He has become a source of inspiration for hundreds of slum dwellers who want to lead a life of dignity. He has helped them dream. He has convinced them that economic condition is not an obstacle if they try hard enough.
A Ph.D in Gandhian Thought and LLB degree holder from Delhi University, Rakesh joined the police force in 2010. He took the initiative to change the lives of children living in slums in the place of his first posting as sub-divisional police officer in Madhubani in north Bihar.
To translate his thoughts into action, he held meetings with social workers and senior citizens and formed a group to assist him in changing the lives of these children, who used to venture into the dark allies of crime.
A number of children from nearby slums joined them. While Kumar used to visit the centres of learning set up in the slum areas on weekends, other volunteers used to take care of the children on a regular basis. This also helped him change people’s perceptions of the police. The well-mannered and polite officer soon came to be known as ‘Policewala Dost’.
His efforts bore fruit. Children from the slum areas cleared school examinations with flying colours and started pursuing higher education. They were taught by the volunteers under the aegis of an organisation called Nav Jagran. “I used to attend classes at the centre where children from slum areas gathered after school hours. It was like a coaching centre for us free of cost. We learned manners and how to behave at the centre,” recalled a beneficiary, who introduced herself as Junga Kumari.
Children of slum localities often used to say that they could not pursue studies because of the economic condition of their families. “But we never faced any financial crisis for purchasing books, notebooks, pens and pencils once the police officer started helping us,” she said.
The journey that started at Madhubani spread to other places. Bags, school uniforms, educational kits and other items were distributed among the children from time to time. Many others joined in and provided assistance.
Hailing from Muzaffarpur district in north Bihar, Kumar said the idea of doing something for slum children struck him soon after he joined the state police force. “More or less, I too come from the same background,” he said.
Kumar makes it a point to attend spend festivals with these children. Be it Holi, Durga Puja, Basant Panchmi or Ramadan or Id, he visits them and distributes sweets. At times, he arranges a feast for them and orphans. “If they are happy even for a day on such occasions, it’s a big thing for me. I gives me immense pleasure from within. I never hesitate to spend a part of my salary on them,” he said.
Rakesh has set up an organisation named ‘Be Human’ for like-minded people who want to support these children. He also urges his colleagues and sub-ordinates to behave properly with people who visit police stations.
“It’s high time the people’s perception about the police forces changes. And for that, the police have to change their behaviour and attitude at the workplace,” he added. Kumar feels no government agency can achieve 100% success without public support. “This means people’s cooperation is needed for better policing as well,” he maintained.
In villages in Jamui near the Jharkhand border, where Naxalite activities are quite common, people are reaping the benefits of the ‘Be Human’ initiative.