When the rest of us were ensconced in our ‘stables’ during the Corona lockdown, there were ‘workhorses’ in khakhi on duty. Braving the deadly virus, they left their families behind at the call of duty. A thickly populated area like Mylapore inevitably emerged as one of the hotspots. At the forefront of the operations in the district was Deputy Commissioner of Police – Mylapore, Shekhar Deshmukh. Ensuring adherance to the lockdown meant restricting public movement, contact tracing and guarding containment zones.
In June this year, the 2012 batch IPS officer ended up testing positive for Covid19. “When I initially had to quarantine myself from my family, my one and a half year old daughter couldn’t live without me and was restless for a few days.” Trotting past “the toughest time” of his life with a baby daughter and wife at home, who later contracted the virus and got admitted at the same hospital, was an unforgettable hurdle. Camaraderie in the department saw Shekhar through. “A friend and elder brother Mr Dharmarajan, IPS, DCP Triplicane, sent us food for almost 20 days, five times a day, as we were very weak to cook on our own and couldn’t rely on outside food for long.” By God’s grace, the trio recovered and were back to their routine by the first week of July.
Covid was hardly the first challenge. Almost immediately after taking charge as DCP Mylapore in December 2019, “we had to face protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Gradually, people started doing sit-in protests. All of them, Shekhar claims, were “handled smoothly with the guidance of senior officers.” The presence of VVIPs – right from the Chief Minister, Ministers, Chief Justice & Judges of the Madras High Court in this jurisdiction kept him on his toes, without the luxury to ‘canter’.
Soft spoken and reserved, the 34 year old Information Technology graduate from Pune University, hails from a humble family of farmers in Maharashtra. “My father Sanjay is a Deputy Tehsildar and my mother Nanda is a home maker.” The IPS was his “second choice” as he was keen on “an administrative job” post Engineering. A short stint in a software company in Pune made him realise that he was drawn more to public service. The economic downturn of 2008-09 and the job insecurity that it brought, was perhaps another silent catalyst. “So I packed my bags and went to Delhi in June, 2009”. Mission Civil Services Examination became possible in 2012.
“Harur in Dharmapuri district was my first subdivision. I worked for four months and then was transferred to Kamuthi.” As SP Kamuthi, Shekhar handled the sensitive Thevar Gurupuja and Immanuvel Semaran Gurupuja bandobusts and ensured the peaceful conduct of the 2016 Assembly poll.
Nagapattinam district presented its share of issues. As the Superintendent of Police, Shekhar had to deal with the fishing folk and opposition to Oil & Natural Gas Corporation’s crude oil drilling operations. “A few murder cases were pending in Nagapattinam district since 2013 without detection. I took special interest in those cases, and we as a team, succeeded in cracking most of them.” Crime prevention came in for special attention. “For the first time in the district, we established a network of high tech CCTV cameras in Nagapattinam and Mayiladadurai towns with live monitoring. This helped in keeping a tab on criminals and also aided detection.”
Infrastructure got an upgrade with “modern control rooms in Nagapattinam and Mayiladadurai, a state of the art conference room in the district police office, a canteen for police personnel and an eagle vehicle – a tempo traveller vehicle with 360 degree cameras around the vehicle to record everything happening around it.” To channelise the energy of the local youth, a mini marathon was organised with a record turnout. Shekhar managed to burn the midnight bulb to do a Master’s in Public Administration through Annamalai University’s distance education programme.
An innings at the Raj Bhavan as the Aide-De-Camp to the Tamil Nadu Governor was “unique, although it was a non-policing role.” What sets this young officer apart is his skill in horse riding. Although his equestrian journey began predictably at the National Police Academy, opportunities to pursue it were few and far between during regular postings due to lack of facilities. Luckily, his tenure as the ADC to the Governor saw him re-igniting his passion.
And there were Patron Saints. “The then Chennai Police Commissioner Mr. A K Viswanathan, IPS, supported us by forming an equestrian team for the Chennai City Police.This was for the first time in the history of this State. We have had mounted police but never an equestrian team as such. We fought against many odds. Senior officers including the present Director General Of Police & Head Of Police Force Mr J.K Tripathy, IPS, backed us in this endeavour. Finally, the team was ready and started participating in equestrian events at Chennai, Puducherry and Bengaluru. Our eureka moment came when we participated in the All India Police Equestrian Championship and Mounted Police Duty Meet – an annual national event hosted by Haryana Police at Gurgaon and won three medals.This was the first time in the history of the Tamil Nadu Police that our team not merely participated but also won a rich haul of medals.”
In his present posting as the Superintendent of Police,Thanjavur, Shekhar’s thrust areas are grievance redressal through better public relations, eliminating rowdyism, reining in illegal activities and toning up the quality of investigation.
When he isn’t galloping, Shekhar enjoys watching movies and cricket and reading books. “I hail from a family that taught me values of simplicity and the need to be grounded.” This helps him to face triumph and disaster and to treat both these impostors just the same, with that classic Rudyard Kipling prescription.
“I believe family lays the foundation for anyone and I would humbly say that my foundation is strong. My wife Dr Madhuri is a dentist and wherever I am posted, she starts her practice from scratch. Our only child – daughter Siya has started taking her baby steps. For a doting dad, watching her quest to speak is priceless.” An officer can also be a family man. You heard that from the horse’s mouth!
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)