When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade. A ten year old boy saw his first role model – a Deputy Collector who used to play the violin in his church choir, collapse during the service and die. But the soulful notes of music and the charm of government service lingered on in his mind, as he soon joined the Sainik School in Tirupur in Class 6. Those were “the best years” of his life, where it wasn’t just physical and mental prowess that was strengthened but a place where “the seeds of patriotism” were sown. Then came a second blow. A career in the armed forces, the predictable dream of any Sainik school alumnus, had to be shelved even before it could begin, with two terse words: “Medically Unfit.”
Life went on. A degree in History at Loyola College, laurels in volleyball, an eventful stint with the NCC that catapulted him to a Youth Exchange Programme in Canada and bestowed on him the honour of being adjudged the second best cadet in the country gave a young Davidson fresh hope to don the uniform. But a real shot in his well developed biceps came when he saw the then Director General Of Police Walter Davaram who had come to Loyola College as the Chief Guest of a function. So enamoured was this NCC cadet by the super cop’s “presence, his walk, his voice, everything about him” that he set his sights on the Indian Police Service. Those years, as is probably the case even today, civil service aspirants made a beeline at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. A Master’s in Sociology followed by MPhil and the UGC Exam were a prelude to the gruelling Civil Services Examination. In his third attempt, Davidson Devasirvatham earned the magical letters ‘IPS’. It has been an eventful two decades for this 1995 batch IPS officer in Tamil Nadu. His present posting as the Inspector General of Police (Administration) is perhaps the lightest assignment he has ever had. Yes, the IG (Admin) is a sort of HR Head of the one lakh strong force and is beset with issues from promotions and awards to disciplinary action and service conditions. But it’s not classic ‘field policing’.
From the word ‘go’, Davidson has been in the thick of action. After his training as ASP Dharmapuri, the young officer had to deal with caste clashes in Paramakudi. Ditto in Cuddalore. As the SP, he had sleepless nights quelling caste riots, as molotov cocktails were hurled, buses were burnt and peace took a backseat. What may have come across as a headache was the “best tenure” for Davidson who relished the action. Having encountered challenges to Law & Order in Karur and Kancheepuram, he was saddled with the task of maintaining peace in Coimbatore, as the Deputy Commissioner, in the aftermath of the serial blasts. Streamlining chaotic traffic in Madurai was another feather in his beret.
Then came hard core intelligence assignments as SP of the Special Branch and DIG Intelligence, which involved investigating the seizure of rocket launchers, the interception of an explosive laden boat and the interrogation of extremists from Andhra Pradesh and the Tamil Tigers.
An international interlude in Kosovo as part of the UN Peace Keeping Mission has been an exciting highlight in Davidson’s career. “ We had to tackle the conflict between the Albanians and the Serbs. Grenades were being hurled and guess what, we were armed with just pistols! For 72 hours, we had to operate indoors from the control room. It was scary but I enjoyed every moment of my stint.”
Although I had heard a lot about Davidson (and another illustrious senior at Loyola College A.K.Viswanathan, now Police Commissioner of Coimbatore) from my History Professors, I saw him for the first time in Kancheepuram when I was on a sensitive assignment for NDTV 24×7. My formal interaction with him was during his Central deputation as the Zonal Director (South India) of the Narcotics Control Bureau and my deputation as Executive Editor of NDTV Hindu. “The NCB had been very active during the tenure of my predecessors T.Rajendran and Shankar Jiwal who had practically eliminated the India – Sri Lanka heroin route” with massive seizures, including a big catch of 50 kilograms in a single operation. “This was good exposure in tackling organised crime. I focussed on getting convictions in pending cases. In Mumbai, we arrested a kingpin operating from Dubai.”. Working in tandem with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Customs, “we turned our attention to ephedrine smuggling to Malaysia as well as cocaine peddlers in Chennai.”
Like a child takes to the playground, Davidson’s eyes lit up when he was posted as IG West Zone in Tamil Nadu. “This 18 month period marked my return to Law & Order and field policing. I travelled to close to 200 police stations and studied the local crime spots. My posting here also satiated my love for travel as my jurisdiction was along the scenic Western Ghats.” If you put aside the three years in Intelligence, five in the NCB and a year in the UN Mission, you will find that Davidson has spent half his career in Law & Order roles. The field is his natural habitat. Ask not just his batchmates but his seniors and subordinates and the unanimous take is that apart from his competence, Davidson is the type no one can influence. One of them sized him up in a sentence “he is ramrod straight and his integrity is unquestionable.”
When he gets into his T Shirt and jeans, this top cop sways to the beats of Tamil, Hindi and English music. Quite active on the social media, many of his posts on facebook garner hundreds of Likes and comments. “I write and think a lot.” What about reading? “I collect books but seldom complete reading them! It’s usually 10 pages in the beginning and the end!”. The travel buff that he is, Davidson is also happy to escort his home maker wife Junitha and his daughters Nivitha Sharon and Nikitha Sharon, students of Ewart School to Citi Centre or Express Avenue Mall. Thinking about the field brings on withdrawal symptoms. Life without the police mike and uniform is not the same. But for an honest officer, beyond a point, it doesn’t matter where you are posted. Davidson Devasirvatham, IPS. Pera Kettale Summa Athiruthilla!
Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7.