What It Takes To Be A Good Police Officer: Interview With IPS Shankar Mahadev Bidari
Shankar Bidari believes in charity, doing good for the people and leaving the rest to God. In this interview, he talks about how he survived every time because of his faith in the Almighty.
By Leena Ghosh • 13 min read
The first thing former Director General and Inspector General of Police (Karnataka) Shankar Bidari does when he walks into his office is give his salutations to the gods adorning his shelf. The man partly responsible for tracking down Veerappan, handling the Mandya riots and helping locate former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s murderers believes his faith in God and his commitment to doing the right thing saved him from the jaws of death – 20 times.
Now, as a retired legal consultant and social worker, he wants to help the public and bring about changes in the political system that’ll benefit the people. In this exclusive interview with ParentCircle, former top cop Bidari talks about his life in the police force, the various challenges he overcame and how important the role of a father is to bring up an honest and responsible person. Following are the excerpts:
How has life been post retirement from the police services?
From a very early age, I developed the habit of waking up at 6:00 a.m. and going to sleep around midnight. I don’t sleep at all in the afternoon. I am now 64 years old and continuing with this routine. So, retirement hasn’t changed anything.
In fact, now life is a little more hectic. I am interested in serving the public. So, I travel every month. I travel mostly in Karnataka and sometimes to Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. I wanted to do my bit in politics as well, but today, politics is not for good, law-abiding citizens. So, I restrict myself to doing social services. I also work as a legal and management consultant, and act as adviser to some companies. People come to me for help regarding medical emergencies, employment issues, transfers, career guidance and so on.
What was your motivation behind joining the Indian Police Services (IPS)?
I studied only till PUC as my father fell ill and I had to take up employment. First, I went to Mumbai and worked for a private newspaper establishment for about 3–4 months where I used to be paid Rs 20 per week. Then, based on my excellent record in matriculation, I was selected as a telephone operator and posted in the Bijapur district under Assistant Commissioner Mr Kumar of the 69th batch of the IPS. He retired as Secretary to the Government of India and was an advisor to the Governor of Karnataka as well. He encouraged me to join the IPS. During those days, correspondence courses were not available. So, I studied as an external candidate. After graduation, I was selected as a grade 4 officer in a bank. Soon, I was appointed as the state commissioner in the Karnataka Administrative Services. Then after a year, I was selected for the IPS. So, I resigned from my post of deputy collector and joined the IPS in 1978. I joined the Karnataka cadre and have been a part of it since then.
Were your parents supportive of your decision to join the IPS?
My father never interfered with my decisions and always encouraged me. He told me to do good things and never hurt anyone. At no time did he inquire about the post I held. Initially, my mother wanted me to start a cloth trading business, as she wasn't sure of a government job. She had seen how people prospered in business. So, she wanted me to set up a business as well. But, I did not want to go into trading, so instead, joined the services.
You have won many medals during your years in service. What were the most challenging times for you?
I have faced many challenges, but I refused to take any medals until the Veerappan operation was completed. Otherwise, I would have got 20 more medals. In 1995, a reward was offered to me but I refused to accept it. I got my reward of Rs 1 crore 60 lakhs (personal reward) and Rs 8 crore (my group reward) after the operation was completed in 2005.
Was Veerappan’s case the most challenging one for you?
Veerappan’s case was challenging, but throughout my years in service, I was given challenging assignments only. And, I gladly accepted them. What was thought to be harmful or disadvantageous, turned to be beneficial for me. Looking back, I think the riots in Mandya was the most challenging situation I faced. In 1982, the entire district was burning and no police or revenue officer was permitted inside the village. But, elections were around the corner and the then Chief Minister, Mr Gundu Rao, asked me to take charge, which I did. And, within two months, I brought everything under control. The elections took place and the communal conflict was brought under control. I was also posted in Tumkur when communal riots, murder and arson were taking place every day.
I went to Bellary when the area faced problems related to dacoity, and other law and order issues. I was assigned the Veerappan operation when nobody was willing to take charge.
Were there times when you feared for your life?
I escaped death at least 20 times during my career. During these times, many of those around me got killed, but I survived. And, I believe it wasn't due to my physical or mental agility, but because of God's grace and the good work I did. Even when we located the killers of our former Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, I was the first person to charge inside. Nobody was ready to go in as they thought that there might be explosives planted inside. I prayed to God and went in first. I inspected the area and called in the others.
Was it hard for your family to see you go on such difficult assignments?
My family suffered for three-and-a-half years when I was in the Special Task Force. So, out of my reward amount of Rs 1 crore 60 lakhs, I gave 25 lakhs to my wife. The remaining amount I gave to charity. I donated to a hospital treating the injured Task Force officers, and to various temples that I used to visit to pray for the success of my operation and the safety of those around me.
What are the daily challenges a police officer faces today?
For civilian police, things have become difficult. Criticism is a big issue. Between the media and the court, police officers are pulled up for no fault of their own. They do their duty diligently, honestly and impartially, and yet, they are pulled up. But, we take this in our stride. We know that we are doing the right thing. We are working diligently and honestly; so we need not be bothered by anything.
In your opinion, what are the qualities needed to become a police officer?
Physical fitness is a must, because police officers sometimes have to go for long periods without sleep and proper nutrition. They are also under a lot of stress. So, one also needs to be determined and committed. You should also have a desire to do good for the people, the police force and the government. If you have that, you can become a good police officer.
The most important thing is that a police officer should think of the police force as his own, without any discrimination. He should care for people he is responsible for and take full responsibility for the orders he issues. If something goes wrong, he should never say, “I did not do it,” or “My juniors acted without my permission or knowledge.”
What’s the general perception of a career in the IPS today?
The truth is, as far as the constable level jobs are concerned, no well-to-do person is willing to take it up. These jobs go to the most impoverished, rural sections of the society. At the sub inspector level, there is some charm to the job. But, most people want the higher-level posts as there aren't many risks to face and they are more about administration and leadership.
Do you feel women need to have more representation in the police force?
I think that if 10–15 per cent of the force is women, it is more than sufficient. Police work is hard, and women have to perform certain family duties as well. Some amount of physical fitness is also required. Women have to take care of children as they are the future of India. I do not think that they are incapable or inferior, but they have to fulfil certain familial and societal obligations. If they want to serve in the short commission type of roles, say for 5 to 10 years before marriage, that is good, but permanent service has more hardships. But, again, to handle lady prisoners and do certain tasks, women are needed in the police force.
All your children are in the civil services. Would you say you were the inspiration behind them?
Children learn by observation. You can sermonise to them for hours every day and it won’t work. They learn from how you behave. My children have seen my conduct and my work, and taken decisions accordingly.
According to you, what is the role of a father in a family?
A mother’s role is more important in the day-to-day education of her children. But a father’s care, concern and guidance are important. A father needs to conduct himself in an exemplary manner. You can cheat others but not cheat your children because they will know your true self.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I am a hardworking and sincere person. I believe in achieving something every day. And, I believe in doing good. But, as a matter of policy, I don’t expect anything from anybody. I am happy that I have always had a good reputation. I have worked under many Chief Ministers and nobody has ever interfered in my work.
What’s your opinion of the role of social media in the society? Would you say that social media has changed people’s perception of the police?
The police are always under pressure – with politicians and media on one side, and the court and other petty leaders on the other. With the arrival of social media, the situation has worsened as the police force is under scrutiny 24/7.
What are your future plans?
I wanted to contribute to the society by joining politics and bringing about changes. But, after observing the political parties, I have understood that I may not be able to make much of a difference. So, I am waiting for the right opportunity. And, when it comes, I will try to do something to change the system.
A career in the police force is a challenging yet prestigious one. Shankar Bidari’s career as a cop is a true example of how courage, determination and grit in a person can help him overcome most challenges. Share this article with your child to inspire him to work hard towards his goals.
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