Armed with a load of books, sheets to sit on the cold, broken floor and sheer grit, a young Sunil had to trudge long distances to village schools in backward, rural Northern Bihar. As his father Dr. Jainath Singh, was a veterinarian in government service, his early life was replete with transfers from one village school to another. Papa dear wanted his son to don the white coat. But an incident changed the teenager’s perception of the medical profession. “I sustained an injury on my leg while playing and had to be rushed to a village hospital. It was a macabre sight. Patients were lying on the floor, howling and groaning in excruciating pain. Blood was being collected in bowls. I almost fainted.” So how could someone terrified of seeing blood, become a doctor? The medical career option was justifiably shelved. And that led to an unswerving foray into the Indian Police Service for Sunil Kumar Singh; a goal bolstered by the spate of murders of students and bomb blasts he witnessed during his college stint.
Despite his penchant for Hindi Literature, Sunil opted for Political Science at Patna University, from where he completed a Masters Degree, with the likes of the Tamil Nadu Home Secretary Apurva Varma, IAS. “That was the time I was contemplating a doctorate in Hindi Literature and was toying with the idea of starting a Hindi Magazine. But coming from a family of government servants – my Uncle was an Engineer in Damodar Valley Corporation, my grand father was a Head Clerk, there was pressure on me to follow suit. My mother Maya Singh was keen that I write the State Public Services Examination as she wanted me to be close to her.” At this juncture, the advice of his cousin Ravi Kanth, a 1987 batch IPS officer who was gunned down by terrorists in Assam, came in handy. “He asked me to choose an optional subject that I was passionate about, not what the herd picks. So I went in for Hindi Literature. Incidentally, I had failed in the subject in Class 8! However, while preparing for the UPSC exam, I was only terrified of English, although it was only of a qualifying nature!” A second attempt in 1988, won him the badge ‘Sunil Kumar Singh, IPS’.
Now posted as the Additional Director General of Police – Uniformed Recruitment Services Board, Sunil has changed a lot over the years. When I first bumped into him when he was the Superintendent of Police of Nilgiris, at the Collectors and SPs Conference at the Secretariat, Sunil used to sport a handle bar moustache and was quite a terror. Now clean shaven, he seems to have mellowed with age, and with his daily dose of inspirational facebook posts, it’s perhaps no coincidence that the second in command of khakhi recruitment is like a khakhi version of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar! As he laughs off the reference, he is quick to reveal that the first thing he does on waking up every morning is to send a whatsapp message to his wife Archana. Is that a romantic message? “No, no. It’s always something profound and philosophical. The same message is posted on my facebook account.” Sample this. “Reflections can’t be seen in boiling water. Similarly, solutions can’t be found with a disturbed mind.”
These gems of wisdom don’t come from thin air under a Bodhi Tree but from hard core policing over close to three decades. The bulk of his assignments have been related to Law & Order and Crime Prevention. Sunil has served as Superintendent of Police in Tuticorin, Pudukottai & Nilgiris, as Deputy Inspector General of Police in Ramanathapuram, Trichy, Madurai and Armed Police, as Commissioner of Police of Trichy, Salem & Tirunelveli, Additional Commissioner of Police, (Headquarters) in Chennai, before his present role as the ADGP – USRB.
“The buzzwords I have tried to follow in my career so far are ‘sincerity and honesty’, handed down to me when I as the ASP Neyveli by former Director General of Police D.Mukherjee.” In Pudukottai, Sunil cracked down on illicit liquor by “cutting connivance and through delegation.” The situation, he reveals, was so bad that “women officers were scared to go on night rounds. I rewarded local cops handsomely for tip offs leading to raids on illicit liquor and punished those who looked the other way. Soon, I was able to make the district ‘arrack free’.” In the year 2000, Sunil says he “recovered stolen property worth over a crore.” Throughout his stints, he recalls with pride how he made “transfers and postings of subordinates transparent and on merit”. In his USRB tenure, the Youth Brigade – the brainchild of Chief Minister Ms.Jayalalithaa, touched the ten thousand mark. “Almost all of them have been absorbed into the Tamil nadu Special Police Battalion.” What’s more, “for the first time, we have introduced online applications for police recruitment.”
Taking the cue of a transformation on the personal front, early on in this piece, Sunil opened up. “Earlier, I seldom left my camp office before midnight and used to travel on rounds for at least 100 kms every day. I developed back pain and severe migraine. There were times I couldn’t lie on the bed and had to sleep on the floor. Once I happened to cross Pachaiyappa’s College and noticed a Yoga exposition by Baba Ramdev. I signed up and then continued my sessions at Isha Yoga. My fitness improved drastically. I began jogging at the sprawling Trichy Police grounds. Later as Commissioner of Police, Salem, I appointed a tennis coach and learnt the game from scratch.”. As Sunil and his charming wife Archana, also a graduate in Political Science from Patna Womens College, posed for photographs, I couldn’t help wondering how this couple can pass for University research students! Perhaps, that secret calls for another facebook post. Or as Mark Twain quipped: “Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer of the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, Political Analyst on Times Now, Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7 and a Media Mentor)