Sacrificed Cambridge Nehru Fellowship to be an IPS Officer to serve the people: ADG Sandeep Mittal
Senior cop of Tamil Nadu Police Sandeep Mittal’s entry into the Civil Services is like a fairy tale. An alumnus of Delhi University’s prestigious Hansraj College, he was selected for Cambridge Nehru Fellowship, which he finally dropped to prepare for the Civil Services, which he cracked in 1995. “It has proved a blessing in disguise for me as I have got a rare opportunity to serve the people of all walks of life in general and the weaker sections of the society in particular,” said Mittal in an interview to Naina Jha of Bureaucrats India.
How did the idea of Civil Services crop up in your mind?
All my professors in the Department of Geology encouraged me a lot. Since I was a university rank holder, I applied for the doctorate course at the Cambridge University, London, and I got shortlisted for the Cambridge Nehru Fellowship. I had a dilemma in my mind whether to go or not. My parents never stopped me from doing anything. They supported my decision of going abroad. However, I was not sure whether I will get a job after returning to India or not, as I knew a lot of people who came back after doing their PhD from foreign and were jobless. Finally, I decided not to go to Cambridge. That was the moment when I decided to appear in the Civil Services examination.
You had total support from your parents.
Oh, yes! I informed my mother about my decision and told her to leave me alone for one year so that I can prepare for what I want to do. I told her that I was going to prepare for the Civil Services and requested her not to tell anyone about my decision. After a year of hard work, I appeared in the Civil Services exam. It was the month of June when I was preparing for the next Civil Services examination, I got to know that results have been announced. Then the internet facility was not there. So, I rushed to the UPSC to see the result.
How were you placed on the day of results?
Those days the results were posted on the notice board of the UPSC premises and in the weekly employment newspaper. I told my mother that results have been announced and I am going to check mine. When I reached the UPSC, I started checking from the bottom. I was drenched in sweat and thought I would never get into the top list. So, I decided to go back. Suddenly one of my friends came and congratulated me for the success and said I would get the IPS. I got irritated and asked him why he was cracking such a joke? He took me and indicated my name on the first page and I was both surprised and shocked to see that.
In hindsight, you were right to not opt for Cambridge fellowship.
Difficult to answer in absolute terms, but yes I am very happy to be a part of the country’s one of the most prestigious administrative institutions. I do take pride in the fact that I get utmost satisfaction from serving the people in general and the needy in particular. Police play a very important role in people’s life by ensuring their safety and security at different levels. Our uniform is a great source of assurance for the masses.
There has a lot been degeneration over the years in the police system of the country. What is your take?
I don’t think so in absolute terms, but yes you have oranges and apples in the basket. Police are not an exception. If there is degeneration in the social ecosystem, police or for that matter any department cannot be immune for long. I personally feel that police forces work very hard. They have no social or family life. Through thick and thin they are at the service of the people. During the corona pandemic, they have done a fantastic job, which we all must appreciate.
General perception about the police is not good.
One should not be guided by the perception. We have to vouch for reality. Against so many odds we have to work and perform as a police force that most of the people do not know. There are undue pulls and pressures. There are external and unfounded factors which give you a lot of mental stress, but we need to cope with all this and perform to the best of our ability.
People have a lot of expectations from the police. Do you think that is correct?
People have the right to have expectations from us. We are meant for them and our job is to serve them irrespective of their social standing. For us, all are equally important and we need to serve them with utmost care and dedication.
How has social media impacted policing?
Social media is a new phenomenon. The use of digital tools in policing has tremendously increased. Thanks to the penetration of social media, each of us is under constant watch. At the same time, social media has thrown up many challenges also. During the coronavirus induced lockdown, we used social media platforms to reach out to the needy and help them out. From arranging meals in trains through NGOs to providing admission in hospitals, we used social media to the maximum in creating a positive image for police.
How does one’s family background impact his outlook as a police officer?
Irrespective of our family background, our job is to serve the people. The people whom we serve are our masters. If we are able to get their goodwill and gratefulness, we make our day. Howsoever great a background you may be carrying, as a police officer, your first and foremost job is to serve the people and ensure that justice is done to its seekers. Yet, one’s family background has only a positive impact on an officer.
What about you?
Let me confess very honestly that I feel for the people I have put up the uniform to serve. I come from a lower middle class family. My father was in a government job. That is why he left his village in Haryana in 1968 and got settled in Delhi. During his college days, he stayed with his elder brother. After completing his education, he joined a government job in Delhi itself.
I was probably the first generation from my family to study in a private school. I did my primary school education from Ravindra Montessori School, Shakti Nagar, Delhi.
Can you share some of your school day’s memories?
I haven’t forgotten anything. I was very particular about my attendance. I used to go to school almost every day. In Class VI, I got into a new school, which was considered the best one in the area. I was put in English medium class, which I protested a lot and asked why I was being given admission into the section where the medium of teaching is English. However, all the teachers were of the view that I should opt for English medium. I secured good marks in Class X and XII. I did my graduation in Geology from Delhi University. I was very active in student politics as well, but never compromised with studies.
Do you miss academics?
Last but not the least, what is your suggestion for Civil Services aspirants?
Hard work has no substitute. One should be focussed and determined to give his or her best.Consistency is very important in the preparation for the Civil Services examination. At the same time, one should also keep other options open.There are many great fields to serve the society and the nation, but if someone wants to be a part of the Civil Services, he or she is most welcome!
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