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Satyapal Singh

Satyapal Singh I wanted to become a first class scientist, but became an IPS officer. My parents were farmers, but enlightened ones. My father wanted me to become an IAS or IPS officer.

I was born in Basauli in the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. I studied in my village and then in the neighbouring town. After doing an M Sc in chemistry from Meerut university, I went to do an M Phil from Delhi university. I was learning the chemistry of metals and elements. I wanted to do something about the chemistry of life. The challenge of extremism and the administration's response led me to the police force.

From my childhood I have been interested in social issues. Since my student days I have been a religious person. I still am. As a student, I used to lecture people about spiritualism. I wanted people to know about our glorious ancient past. We had such a superior knowledge of science. History, as it is taught in our schools and colleges today, has been distorted by the Europeans. We have to prove to the West that our religion is the best. It has a scientific base and an universal appeal.

I wanted to speak at various scientific fora about the Vedas -- which are the revelations of god. I used to dream that like Swami Vivekananda, I would represent India in a world religion conference in 1993. Of course, it never happened.

I was considered a brilliant student as I stood first in class right from class VII till M Sc. I can also boast of a photographic memory. I was so engrossed in religion and social issues that I had just enough time to go through my books before the exams.

At that time there was a craze of 'going to America,' so I too applied to various American universities. I got fellowships from two universities. My father did not agree to let me go because two others who had gone there from the neighbouring village did not return. They married local girls and settled there.

Though I didn't participate in sports like karate and boxing, I was a good volleyball player in school. But after I became a part of the IPS I do regular strenuous exercises. I have also been a good public speaker. At present I am regarded as one of the best speakers in the Bombay police.

I did my training in Thane city. My first independent posting was ASP, Nasik. Then I became the SP of Buldhana. It was during my posting in Garchula that I got interested in doing a Ph D on the Naxalite problem. I was involved in the Naxalite problem in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. I also studied extremism in other countries. Finally I completed a Ph D in public administration. I got a gold medal from Nagpur university. I topped the university both years.

Satyapal Singh I did not get much time to study -- I could only get a week's time or so before the exams. I went to Australia to do my MBA. I remained in Australia for a little more than a year. I wanted to learn about business because I was posted in Delhi for a year in the industry ministry. Then I was shifted to the CBI where I was dealing with the import-export probes.

As a police officer, I feel I am in the best position to study people. We meet every kind of person. We become psychologists. Every person who wants to go up in life must consider himself a student always.

There is a rule in nature that nothing is stationary. If you are not going up, you'll go down. You cannot remain static. There's so much knowledge in the world that I feel ignorant.

Before coming to Bombay, I was working among tribals As I come from a rural background I don't mind rural postings but I also like city life. Actually it makes no difference to me -- city or rural life. They are all the same to me. I am happy anywhere.

For implementing law and order, violence is sometimes necessary, even State violence. You cannot just give lectures, sometimes you have to resort to violence. "Laton ke bhooth baton se nahe manthein" (Violent people cannot understand words).

The police and paramilitary forces are maintained to protect the freedom of the individual. In the larger interest of society violence is sometimes necessary. Every government servant should keep in mind that we have to look at the larger interest of society.

At the beginning of your career people try to bribe you. Your own subordinates try to corrupt you, particularly if your predecessor was corrupt. Once you create an image of honesty, nobody tries. Nobody will dare!

I am not very happy with our progress in the last 50 years. It could not have been better. But our planning has been defective from the very beginning. The planners studied at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge. They wanted to transfer whatever they learnt there, here. There's a lot of difference between the West and us. The climate is different, the people are different, the resources are different. We did not make any attempt to learn from our past, our very own past. Every individual should learn from his past to progress in his future.

Satyapal Singh Unfortunately, our leaders did not make us proud of the education we are getting in our own schools and colleges. The British divided us into north and south; into Aryans and Dravidians.

We must keep an open mind. We must study our past. At a particular time India was at the top of the world. We must also learn from other countries. But when we apply it we must adapt it to our environment, our country and the situation here.

Albeni, a scholar who had come down with Mohammed of Ghazni, told him that "The brahmins of India are so arrogant that they don't want to interact with anybody outside. They think they know everything, they have no scope to learn from others, this kind of country will never progress." This was said in the 11th century.

The brahmin did not allow others to learn. Our own text books were taboo for our children.

I am optimistic that we will make better progress in the future. We must all be optimistic.

A Ganesh Nadar spoke to Additional Commissioner of Police Dr Satyapal Singh, who has led the recent charge on Bombay's underworld. Photographs: Jewella C Miranda