Shramadan (Voluntary Labor)

The science of Administration has made rapid advances.  However we senior bureaucrats have closed minds.  I read books on modern management.  I found several innovative ideas creative projects & skills. I developed a new outlook on the SRPF working.

From the Khilari experience I realised that the Jawan needs to develop a liking for work which is hands on and requires one to get down to toiling in the mud with his bare hands.  I got them to learn by heart an article on the importance of Shramadan (voluntary labor).  Jawans learnt that gardening is an effective way of stress management.  This has been proved by scientific studies.  Playfully indulging in tasks of physical labour with team-mates is good exercise without boredom.  The creative work gives great inner satisfaction.  Many ailments vanish.  It helps in preserving the environment.  It enthuses oneself to work in a pleasant clean surroundings.

Firearms inflate the ego of the jawans.  They suffer from superiority complex.  Voluntary physical work teaches them the virtues of humility.  Jawans used to ‘Shramadan’ would readily take to clearing debris.  They would readily do rescue work in accidents.  They would have empathy for the poor workers toiling the whole day for meager of wages.  They would not commit excesses on people holding public demonstrations demanding justice. 

St. Gadge Maharaj and Mahatma Gandhi cleaned latrines for others.  Why should then we be shy of cleaning our own premises?  I quoted such examples and exhorted my jawans to take to Shramadan.  Initially some of them hesitated, but eventually everybody joined.  We took up the ambitious ‘Shrestatha’ (Execellence) project at Ramtekadi in Pune.

Barring a few trees at the foot of the hill, the entire campus was barren.  We planted trees by the lakhs.  These trees attracted birds for shelter & food.  The campus turned into a bird sanctuary.  One can see several varieties of birds.  A 25-ft deep ditch on a five-acre plot was being used as a waste dump.  It was cleared of the entire dirt.  A parapet was build around it and a clubhouse in the center.  A bore-well was dug nearby.  The water filled in the pit now turned it into a beautiful lake.  30,000 fish seeds were introduced into the lake.  Decorative lamps were fitted around the lake. 

Five rowboats were placed in the lake.  Seashore sand was dumped in a corner to resemble the beaches of Mumbai.  The WWF helped create a botanical garden.  The whole project was executed through voluntary labor.  It was meant for the recreation of the families of the jawans.  Not only the families of the jawans, but all the citizens of Pune now enjoy this serene place.  It is now a tourist attraction.  The lathi yielding SRP jawans can be motivated to take up such projects.  I am confident that each and every SRPF Group can take up such Excellence projects.

A new senior officer joined the SRPF.  He too wanted improve the professional knowledge and efficiency of SRPF men.  He introduced various new training courses.  After about four months, he took the feedback. Many officers reported 50% to 60% improvements in the knowledge of the men.  I however had a different opinion.  According to me these daylong courses did not add more than 5 to 6 % to the knowledge!  My superior did not agree with me. 

It is true that the jawans attended the classes.  They sat through the lectures sitting upright in attention.  They looked into the eyes of the instructor.  When the instructor asked them whether they had followed him-they replied in the affirmative in one voice. They appeared to be attentive.  They looked into the eyes of the instructor. In fact they had followed nothing, imbibed nothing.   This was a great puzzle for me in the beginning.

SRPF jawans are not the armed forces type.  Their IQ is much higher than people think.  Why then is their professional knowledge so low?  Are the teachers substandard? Is the training boring and unrelated to their profession?  No on both counts!  I found the true reason for this in an earlier question.

My experience about the SRPF Jawan during my tenure as Principal of DTS, Nasik is important.  There was a law and order problem in the sugar factory at Kasoda in Jalgaon District.  The relations of S.P. Jalgaon and the local MLA at Kasoda were strained.  The MLA demanded that the Director General of Police should depute police officers and men from outside jalgaon district for bandobast.  I was accordingly deputed to Kasoda for bandobast along with two platoons of SRP.  In reality, there was no law and order problem at Kasoda.

I had nothing to do but while away time at the Rest House.  The SRP men & myself were just taking it easy.  I used to get ready by 9:30 or 10 and read papers in my suite in the Guest-House.  I could observe some SRP jawans resting under the trees.  After taking their lunch by 11 AM I observed that they would stretch out under the trees onto their mattresses.

I could see the SRP jawans lying on their backs, heads cupped in their palms from behind and staring at the sky.  I was either reading or listening to music.  The jawans seldom stirred, except to roll over occasionally.  After my lunch I used to take a nap.  After tea, I would peep out of the window and see the SRPF jawans still in the same position till 5 PM.  I observed this for three consecutive days. 

I personally was having a hard time whiling away my time.  How did these jawans while away their time for days together?  At least I had my reading and music.  May be, they were thinking about something.  I was curious to know as to what were they thinking about.  Were they thinking about their family, their relations, their colleagues, disputes over their farms, partitions of their farms, village feuds, a job for their son, marriage of their daughter, their retirement, politics……? I could not restrain myself on the fourth day.  I went up to them and put the question to them directly.

They eyed each other with suspicion “Were you thinking of your family, your retirement or your village?”  I prompted.  After a while one Head Constable replied “Sir, we were not thinking of any thing.  We were just resting.”  I persisted in my questioning.  You haven’t been reading, nor listening to the music.”  They repeated their answer but I wasn’t satisfied.  They had to be thinking about something.

Later I was posted to SRPF group I & II.  The question from Kasoda was still gnawing at me.  And one day I did find the answer.  Four months of education did not add to the knowledge of the jawans.  This had something in common with the experience at Kasoda guest House the reply given by the jawans at Kasoda was truthful.

It was a fact that they were thinking of nothing.  They just stared at the sky.  Training courses after courses did not add to their knowledge.  They kept on staring at the instructor for hours, keeping their mind vacant all the time.  It seems as if they had mastered some yogic skill for achieving this feat! They had fortified their minds so well that the not an iota of teaching entered their mind.

The jawans were so lazy and averse to training that their knowledge could not be improved by training.  Improvement in knowledge was essential for efficient performance of their duties however they had not grasped this point.  George Barnard Shaw said that if you try to teach a man something he will not learn.  Learning, according to him, is an active process.

Human nature is selfish.  Am I going to be benefited?  What does this training course hold for me?  He pays attention only if he is convinced about the benefits to him, not otherwise. The jawans are not impressed by exhortations that the training would enhance the reputation of their unit or of the SRPF.  They may not be much bothered about the reputation of the force and hence take little interest in the training. 

We therefore adopted a radical new technique to change their attitude and create a liking for training in them.  Since March 1997 we adopted new techniques of administration based on modern principles.  The functioning of the group was changed completely.  We bid adieu to the old style of functioning.

The very first step was to evolve and adopt a mission for group.  Every jawan and officer decided his mission.  We then decided on programs to reach our goals.  So far, making the jawans sweat more and more on the parade ground was considered to be the sole panacea for improvement.  We changed the training to suit the requirements of their duties & tasks.

My study of the SRPF working revealed that the personnel were very deficient in the knowledge of internal security duty, resulting in failures in handling the riots, or controlling Naxalites.  In 1989, two officers and six jawans of SRPF group II were killed by the Naxals near Tekamandava and Mariopatan villages.  Ten jawans of SRPF group V were killed in 1991 in Permeli & Bhamaragad.  I gathered all the details of these incidents and analyzed them.

I realized that some simple measures by the jawan would have averted these incidents.  Guidelines for prevention are available in the training course.  Unfortunately these defensive measures are not taught effectively.  The officers are not impressed with the importance of this training and its relevance for them.  I felt that constantly hammering on this aspect of training would create the necessary interest in training.  They would use this training in their operations.  The Jawans started taking their training programs seriously when they realised that deficiency in internal security may result in the loss of their life and destitution of their family.  This was a better motivation than mere references to the “pride and glory of the unit”.

SRP Group I resolved that it would enhance the knowledge of its officers and men.  It was decided that the level of knowledge of each & every jawan would be raised to that of the instructor.  The group had only 19 instructors for its 1200 jawans.  It was our ambition to make all the 1200 Jawans instructors.  I ordered the officers to work in this direction.  Many officers decried the suggestion openly in my presence. They felt that this new officer just did not know the working of the SRPF.  Let alone hundred percent, not even one percent jawans would become instructors, they told me bluntly.  I was however, firm in my resolve.  I wanted every jawan to learn the syllabus by heart and in turn teach it.  I adopted different strategies based on principles of management to achieve the goal.

Two months after commencement of the scheme. SRPF Jawan Mr. Mane faced the class room as an instructor. Mane was a wrestler always to be found in the gymnasium.  He participated in wrestling competitions all over Maharashtra.  He had reached the semifinals in the prestigious Maharashtra Kesari competition.  Whenever I saw him, he would touch my feet and proudly tell me about his latest victory in some bout or the other.  Being so busy with wrestling, he had nothing to do with training.  Nobody even expected him to turn up in training class.  Today this same man was going to stand as an instructor in front of a class of 500 jawans & officers.

It was just two months after commencement of the scheme.  I was present with all my officers for his lecture and as he began, we were stunned by his style of delivery, his recitation and his boldness.  Tears of joy rolled down the eyes of many officers when they saw Mane taking the class as a seasoned instructor.  What was the key to this miracle?

I had tried the famous educational experiment of Pavlov and his dogs.  By creating certain situations, we had raised the level of education in the SRPF.  Human conduct can be changed by manipulating the circumstances surrounding it.  Human mind is molded by its environment.  Man is the creature of his circumstance.  The circumstances improve or spoil his mind.

Man is a slave of habits, good or bad. Pavlov, a Russian scientist demonstrated this discovery by an experiment on his dog.  The experiment is now well known as Pavlov’s Dog experiment. Pavlov inserted a tube in the saliva gland of the dog, with one end protruding out.  The secretion of saliva on sighting of the food could be noticed by its oozing out of the tube.  Saliva secretion on sighting of food is a natural instinct. Pavlov went a step further.  He rang a bell before offering food to the dog.  He did so repeatedly.  The ringing followed by the sighting of the food got firmly established in the mind of dog and eventually it would secrete saliva on the ringing of the bell itself.  Then Pavlov rang the bell, but did not offer food.  The dog still continued to secrete saliva.  The ringing of the bell and offer of food got bonded with the natural instinct of the dog.  The important fact to note is that Pavlov had to repeat the circumstances, over & over again.  Pavlov had created a new reflex in his dog.  It was not the natural instinct of the dog.  It was achieved by manipulating circumstances repeatedly and consistently.  In Psychology, Pavlov’s experiment is termed as “Conditioned Reflex”.  

I had followed these scientific principles very scrupulously.  I had created circumstances where Mane the wrestler had no alternative but to study hard.  My follow up action was so thorough that Mane had no escape at all.  Mane therefore learnt by heart a training course, which no other wrestler ever did.  The cynical officers were proved wrong.  Just as Pavlov’s dog acquired a new reflex, SRPF jawans acquired new aptitude & became instructors.  In short, a SRPF officer can break or make the habits of his men, if he is determined to do so.

I repeated my experiments of educating the staff at number of places.  I enjoyed unprecedented success. I was often asked why these experiments seemed to lose their effectiveness after my transfer from that particular place. Again we turn to Pavlov for the answer.  In the later stage of the experiment, Pavlov rang the bell but did not offer the food there after.  After some time, the dog too stopped secreting saliva on ringing of the bell.  He established a new principle of Psychology.  Newly acquired conditioned reflexes can be destroyed by de-conditioning.  My successors did not show consistency, they merely rang the bell, but offered no food.  Naturally the results vanished.

I discovered twenty-seven different reasons for the absenteeism in SRPF.  Good counseling is necessary to solve the personal problems of the jawans.  Counseling skills in senior officers are necessary to redress the grievances of the jawans.  Every jawan has his strong points & weak points.  I prepared a 53-column form based on the SWOT principle and helped in identifying the Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat of each jawan.  This information was compiled for all the jawans.