The ‘post-marriage flab’ gripe has almost become a cliche. But a ‘paunch star’ status can become a career hurdle too. In a physical test for the Indian Forest Service that involved a 25 Km Walk in 4 hours at the Delhi Zoological Park, Dr. Jayant Murali barely managed to scrape through, making him realise that it was time to work out. Although he cracked the IFS Exam in 1990, peer pressure and the new fitness bug pushed him towards the Indian Police Service the following year. And there hangs an inspiring tale of keds, iron, sweat and muscle.
As a young ASP Trainee at Salem drafted for the Chief Minister’s bandobust duty, Jayant was “awestruck and amazed at the fitness and energy levels” of the then DIG of the Special Security Group (SSG) K Vijay Kumar, IPS. “After my bandobust duties, I couldn’t wait to get into my shorts and run in the Armed Reserve Grounds in the dead of night!” During a record 4 year stint as the SP – Thanjavur from 1995 to 1999 (which is when I first touched base with him while reporting on the Cauvery issue for NDTV) Jayant used to run 12 kms on weekdays and 25 kms with his Striking Force constables in tow. No wonder, even at 52, as the Inspector General Of Police – Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), South India, he effortlessly runs marathons, now flanked by his daughters! Not many senior officers can boast of having run ten marathons. Jayant’s personal best of 3 hours and 48 minutes was at the Full Marathon in Auroville, Puducherry. How did his young daughters enter the fray? “My colleague in the IPS Sandeep Rai Rathore coaxed me into signing up for the Chennai Wipro Half Marathon so that he could run along with me. On D-Day, his father was unwell. That’s when my daughters – Anisha and Anusha decided to run with me.”
Peer pressure didn’t just herald a fitness regimen in Jayant’s life. It pretty much shaped his career choice as well. Although his father was with the Indian Railway Engineering Service, Jayant showed no inclination towards the Civil Services, immersed as he was in research. Post graduation in Micro Biology was followed by a PhD through the Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi. A perfect setting for a shy, young lad’s foray into the quiz circle and debating society. At the height of the Mandal agitation, his IFS exam got postponed. When it was rescheduled, Jayant had a mere fortnight to prepare. And he topped the Indian Forest Service Exam with an All India 6th Rank! Corporate job offers from companies like Biocon trickled in. “I was keen on the Indian Revenue Service. But a friend from the Police Service in the Union Territory cadre – Deepak Mishra, gave me a pep talk about the charm of khakhi. Honestly, my parents were sceptical as they didn’t think I was made for a police job!” But he eventually sided with what his friend recommended and landed in the 1991 batch of the IPS.
Throughout his stint, Jayant has focussed on making a difference sans the customary fuss or publicity, evident from the number of times he politely declined TV interviews on his work. And right from his first posting as ASP Usilampatti sub-division in Madurai. Notorious for female infanticide, Jayant was instrumental in registering the first female infanticide case as murder. “We worked closely with the ICCW( Indian Council of Child Welfare) and were able to check this menace to a large extent not just by taking criminal action but also by bringing social awareness about this pernicious practice.” Tirunelveli, a hotbed of communal riots, was lucky to have had this tough officer as SP in 1995 and later as the Commissioner of Police. Prohibition was a challenge in the face of hooch deaths. “ By installing complaint boxes, we were able to get information from the public on rowdies as well as many a tip off on the illicit liquor gangs.” Jayant led combing operations in Melapalayam as the Commissioner to smoke out ultras from their hideouts. In Trichy, he was part of a massive Community Policing project, the brainchild of the then Commissioner and present ADGP Prisons JK Tripathy. In Madurai, as the DIG, Jayant used technology to streamline police functioning. But his longest stint so far has been with the CISF, to which he has been on deputation for the last 7 years. “Working in Central Paramilitary organisations is extremely satisfying as the canvas is huge.” The 17,000 strong team of officers and men that he leads provides security to 55 critical installations like the Space facilities at Sriharikota, VSSC Thumba, ISRO Bangalore, Defence Industries, Sea Ports, Refineries, Steel plants, Power Plants, Infosys and so on. “We introduced Krav Maga and one minute drills in the sector, many several welfare measures to mitigate the hardship of our men besides an anti corruption drive.”
When he isn’t policing (or running!) Jayant enjoys curling up with a book and watching movies with his family. Having married his ‘named for each other’ research mate Dr. Jayanthi, now posted as the Additional Director of Environment, monitoring Coastal Regulatory Zone violations, their life revolves around their two daughters – Anisha – in her final year of Architecture at Anna University and Anusha studying Bio Medicine at Kings College, London.
Now I’m just wondering if he will be able to motivate me to run the next marathon in Chennai along with him! Or will his daughters have to stand in for me on the big day?!
Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7