He is among the busiest police officers, heading the largest Police Commissionerate in India spread over several districts of Telangana, and part of Hyderabad city. Despite his choc-a-block schedule, he keeps his interest in music and literary events alive. What’s more, over the past few years, he has been mentoring Civil Services aspirants.
That’s Rachakonda Police Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat for you.
His affable demeanour may not fit the conventional (read: stereotypical) image of a police officer, but he is on a mission to inculcate similar, humane behaviour among civil servants. Over the years, he has offered free mentoring to hundreds of aspirants across the country. What started as a small step in his native State, Maharashtra, has now become a passion project for him. In a freewheeling conversation with The Hindu, he discusses all about nurturing Civils aspirants and the joy that their success gives him. Excerpts:
How did all this start?
Prior to my selection to the Civil Services, I underwent this process with retired as well as serving officers guiding us. Inspired by it, we started a WhatsApp group in 2016 to guide youngsters. Now, we have seven such groups and have roped in experts.
We have extended the same guidance to those aspiring for Forest Services and also Assistant Commandant posts in Central police forces like the CISF and CRPF. Now, we have candidates from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari reaching us out for assistance. We have mentors for a variety of subjects.
How do you take out time for this activity amid your busy schedule ?
I have moulded myself to it. I read The Hindu every morning, and share important articles with candidates much before they get their newspaper copy. This process goes on throughout the year. I believe the success of our mentees keeps me going. The struggle period is very crucial for aspirants and being able to guide them at that time gives a lot of satisfaction.
I also spend my spare time with the candidates, talking to them and discussing probable questions. When the candidates come out of the Interview Board room and call me to share the details of the interview, and how the board members asked the same questions that we had discussed earlier gives me immense satisfaction.
How do the aspirants reach you, particularly those from other States?
Success speaks for itself. It’s basically due to word-of-mouth publicity. The existence of WhatsApp groups is publicised by the successful candidates and seniors preparing for the next year. We don’t advertise. Mentoring is free and a way of giving back to the society that also attracts others to us.
What exactly is the kind of guidance that you give? Does it start from the Prelims level or at the later stages?
I share the information throughout the year but concentrate more on the crucial interview part, along with other mentor friends. Over the years, those who benefitted from our group and topped the exam have also joined me in this initiative. These young officers have two WhatsApp groups for guiding aspirants for the Prelims and later for the Mains.
How is the level of cooperation from other officers?
Successful candidates in recent years have joined us to guide others. They share their notes with the aspirants. This platform helps them coordinate, identify and approach the aspirants. Like Amit Narayan Mallampati, the Anthropology topper this year, has joined us; aspirants feel empowered when the subject toppers speak to them. Mentors who have joined me on this journey are deputy commissioner-Customs at Mumbai Airport Nitesh Pathode, International Relations expert Shailendra Deolankar, Secretary to Tamil Nadu Governor Anand Patil, Ramesh Pandey of Ministry of Environment and Forest and CISF-Commandant at Goa Airport Pratap Punde. They are actively involved.
What kind of qualities you think an aspirant should possess for Civils preparation?
Perseverance, right strategy and a positive attitude hold the key. One also has to devote at least six hours a day to studying. On the strategy part, focus should be on covering 20% of the syllabus to score 80% of marks. This 20:80 principle is the strategy for success. Ten hours for preparation, six hours for other activities and eight hours of sleep is what I promote. Writing practice is a must as people are losing touch with writing on paper.
In your experience as a mentor, do you think mentoring is important even if an aspirant is bright?
Mentorship really helps and the early starters always have the advantage. The experience and wisdom gained from the mentors will give them an edge in such a highly competitive exam. This exam is not just for the brightest but for those working hard.
Where do you get this energy from?
Energy perhaps comes from the satisfaction with the kind of success we are seeing every year. Sometimes, I also feel like I have been selected once again. Perhaps, that motivation generates new energy.