ONE EXPECTS policemen in the making to be well-versed in the law, weapons and police procedures. But at the Marol Police Training Centre, police cadets are also in touch with daily affairs, voicing their opinions through articles in ‘Vichaar Manch’, a monthly writing competition. The competition was launched when a new library was inaugurated at the centre in September 2016, with the objective of encouraging reading and writing among cadets. “Teaching cadets about law and policing is easy. But teaching them about soft skills and sensitivity is not. That is nowhere on the curriculum,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Somnath Gharge, principal of the training academy.
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‘Vichaar Manch’ is a platform for cadets to express their opinions on relevant issues and current affairs and also to gain knowledge and sensitivity in the process. The five best submissions, along with the writer’s name and chest number, are displayed on the notice board outside the library. Getting their name on the board becomes a matter of pride and inspiration for the cadets, say officials. In addition, 15 participants who put in a good effort also find their names on a list on the notice board. Winners also get a certificate acknowledging their achievement.
Articles ranging from adverse affects of demonetisation to the challenge that Islamic State poses to India currently adorn the notice board. “I was really shocked when my friends told me that my article was on the notice board. I thought many other entries were better than mine. They even had better handwriting. I had never written before. But it feels really good when my batchmates come and tell me that my name and article are on the notice board. Now I want to write more,” said Dinesh Paresh Acharya, a 23-year-old cadet from Hinjewadi, Pune.
His article on the negative impact of demonetisation can now be read by all 625 cadets at the academy. “Demonetisation is a current issue and despite the claim that it will eradicate black money, common man has suffered its negative impact,” Dinesh said. Incidentally, 27-year-old cadet Deepak Asaram Jaybhai from Amravati wrote on the positive impact of demonetisation and his article made it to the best five too. “People with unaccounted money are running helter-skelter. It has happened due to demonetisation,” he said.
The new library has found more visitors as a result of the competition. More people want to write and to do that they first need to read. The older library, a 150 sq ft room, with two tables, eight chairs and zero windows, understandably did not have many takers. “We now get over 40 students a day who come to read and expand their knowledge. The new library is spacious, is well-ventilated and lit and has over 5,000 books in Marathi, English and Hindi. Students can even request a book and we get it for them,” said constable Vaishali Kolekar, the librarian. “After seeing their friends’ names on the notice board, cadets now come and say they want to write as well. More people now come and read books, periodicals and newspapers,” she said.
The library houses books from different genres, ranging from criminal law to crime fiction. “We have complete collection of Sherlock Holmes, which is very insightful even though it is fiction. We also have Marathi versions of The Godfather and Agatha Christie novels. There are books on personality development, history, competitive exams. We even have Chicken Soup for the Soul…,” said Assistant Police Inspector Sadanand Nirgun, who teaches at the academy and also supervises the functioning of the library.
The library also has internet connection so that cadets can research any topic they want. Amol Subhash Dhamne, a 25-year-old cadet from Ahmednagar, is passionate about sports. He wanted to play kabaddi professionally but an injury came in his way. His article, which also made it to the notice board, was on India’s performance at Rio Olympics. “We won only two medals, but our women made us proud. After I read about the stories of Sakshi Malik, P V Sindhu and Dipa Karmakar, I wanted to write about them and their achievement” he said.
For 28-year-old cadet Deepak Manohar Bilghe, Vichaar Manch and the library came as a boost of confidence. “I used to write before as well but never showed my writings to anyone. I was hesitant. Now my article is on the board and it gives me confidence to write. All my batchmates can see what I have written,” he said. His article on the evils of superstition was motivated by his personal experiences as well. “I have seen superstition ruin a lot of lives in Buldhana. I wanted to write about it,” he said. “Now my batchmates also want to write to get their names on the notice board. What we write might not be perfect. But we are all work in progress,” he adds.