The sound of marching boots of Student Police Cadets on the Parade Ground of the Kerala Police Academy, Thrissur, will reverberate across the nation soon.

A successful model of the Student Police Cadet (SPC) project is being discussed and analysed at the national level. A resolution was passed at the 41 All India Police Science Congress at Dehra Dun last year, where it was recommended that all States should adopt the SPC project.

“The model has the potential for being married to the concept of ‘education for peace' mooted by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), as both are aimed at promoting the concept of peace and enabling children to handle conflict situations. Also, the SPC project has been documented well, right from its initial stages,” Hormis Tharakan, former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and former State Police Chief, told The Hindu after visiting the summer camp of SPCs at the Academy early this month.

What started off as an experiment has now become a full-fledged movement. Two batches of cadets, totalling about 12,000, are undergoing training in 127 schools across Kerala, with applications pending from nearly 800 more schools. “We will extend it to more schools, but will restrict it to 1,000 schools in the end. Beyond that, it might become very difficult to handle,” Jacob Punnoose, State Police Chief, told The Hindu along the sidelines of the camp.

The SPC project was conceived in 2008, as an attempt to inculcate better civic sense among students and to mould them as responsible youth who will react positively to demands of society. It has now evolved as a flag-ship project for the State Police's attempt to bring about a paradigm shift in the concept of policing and development of youth.

“It is high time we moved away from the colonial concept of policing, where the people are threatened to submission and made to abide by law. Policing becomes a democratic experience when the people feel they own the police,” said Mr. Punnoose. He made a presentation of the SPC project before the Prime Minister in September last and the response was positive.

The resonance is very obvious among all those who have been introduced to the project. “This is a good beginning. At the same time, they should also take care to democratise the project and not just focus on regimenting it,” was the response of V.N. Rai, director of the National Police Academy, who is also exploring the national-level potential of the project.

Radhavinod Raju, former head of the National Investigation Agency and currently part of the Task Force on National Security, also concurred that the SPC project held the potential for preparing students “eventually for a fruitful police community relationship.”

As Chief Minister Oommen Chandy observed while inaugurating the SPC Day last year, the project fulfils the responsibility of each generation to ensure that children were moulded to be morally upright and capable citizens by training, education and exposure to real-life at an early age.

Within the State, the project has already evinced a good response. The Kerala Legal Service Authority (KELSA) of the High Court of Kerala has accepted the SPCs as ‘ambassadors' of its legal literacy campaign. Citing this as a first of its kind in the country, C.N. Ramachandran Nair, Judge, High Court of Kerala, said this move could enable the arm of the legal machinery to reach out to the lowest and poorest sections of the community. .

Following the suit, the Kerala Road Safety Authority has also selected SPCs to spread road awareness among students and allotted Rs.1 crore for the current year, along with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL); the State departments of Excise and Forest too roped in the SPC to take up their campaigns.

“The basic assumption behind the SPC project is that there is a policeman in every one. We attempt to increase that policeman quotient in students and prepare them as ideal citizens,” said P. Vijayan, Commissioner of Police, Thrissur City and State Nodal Officer of the SPC Project.

With the first batch of SPCs getting two full term training passing out, it is also time to think about the next phase of the project.

The recently-formed Kerala State Security Commission has decided in principle to grant grace marks to SPCs and weightage for them during recruitment to the police force.

More In: National | News | Kerala