The Amazing Force Multiplier, A Hero to the Masses
- Published on 5 Sep 2020, 10:51 am IST
- 9 minutes read
Changing lives of lakhs of underprivileged children, even putting some on Mt.Everest, this civil servant moves with unprecedented zeal. Dr R S Praveen Kumar, the harbinger of change, has produced results which only remain in the fantasies of most bureaucrats.
- Dr R S Praveen Kumar
He is a dream merchant, but with a firm grip on reality.
Single-handedly, he has given wings to the dreams of over two lakh children of Telangana. And they all swear by him. Among other things, he has helped put a 13-year old girl on top of Mt.Everest- the youngest in the world to do so. So much so that leading Bollywood personality Rahul Bose has made a film on the unprecedented Everest victory.
This is not all. The prestigious Harvard University has taken up his work as a case study. Now this is just one of the many feathers in his cap. The man we are talking about is none other than senior IPS officer of Telangana, Dr R S Praveen Kumar. To put it mildly, he is a celebrity in the world of civil servants.
Giving away some inkling of the kind of man Dr Kumar is his Twitter profile. It says : `Vet by education, cop by profession, and educator by passion. Now on the mission of liberating poor from inferiority through education.’
But more than anything else, it’s Dr Kumar’s work and achievements of the past nine years which speak the loudest. As of today, the Telangana Government’s educational society- which he has been spearheading for as many years- is running 268 social welfare schools, directly benefitting about two lakh students.
These students get free education, food and clothes from class five to their under-graduate courses. Of course all this is on the surface, part of the official records. What is not evident in the official documents is the real work of Dr Kumar; this entails instilling determination and will to succeed among the students, telling them they have equal right to happiness and success like anybody, that they are the unique beings which God has created and that no power on Earth should be allowed to oppose their rightful claims.
Now look at the results of these teachings. In the last five years, 48 students from the education society managed by Dr Kumar have got into Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), 81 are pursuing MBBS, 133 joined NITs, 62 got entry into Azim Premji University, 12 in Delhi University, 31 in various Central universities, four in the Indian Navy School and 11 in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“First of all, I don’t like the word underprivileged, or even dalit, for these children,’’ Dr Kumar told Indian Masterminds with a startling finality. He explains, patiently and without rushing through his words: “Why should they be put on the margins of this big and beautiful world? No door should be closed to them, and no opportunity should bypass them. That’s the crux of my teaching. I infuse confidence in them, and tell them they are second to none. And this is what all of us should be doing. We should empathise, and not sympathise, with these children.’’
As one listens to Dr Kumar’s `mantra’ for life, it becomes clear why Harvard University has focused its attention on his unique work. Let’s digress a bit, and look at the crowning achievement of a young girl Malavath Poorna. Inspired by Dr Kumar’s teachings and guidance, she achieved a feat which is yet to be surpassed by anybody. On May 25, 2014, when Poorna was just 13 years and 11 months old, she put her two feet on the summit of Mt Everest, at 29,102 feet the highest peak in the world. In the process this girl, brimming with self-confidence, became not only the youngest person in India, but the youngest person in the world, to have made a successful stab at this most alluring and hypnotizing Himalayan peak, conquering which has remained an unfulfilled dream of many accomplished mountaineers.
Conquering Everest made Poorna yearn for more. She then went to Antarctica, and reached the summit of its highest peak- Mount Vinson- at 16,050 feet!
For the Operation Everest expedition of 2014, Dr Kumar chose his disciples Malavath Poorna and Sadhanapalli Anand Kumar. Before starting the Everest climb, Poorna trained herself in the mountains of Ladakh and Darjeeling.
Poorna’s Everest victory caught the eye of Bollywood. In 2017, Rahul Bose made a film on the remarkable girl. Titled `Poorna : Ladkian Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hain (Girls Can Do Anything)’, the film was appreciated by one and all. The same year, it was screened at the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival , where it was nominated on the festival’s list of `30 Best Feature Films’.
Some achievements for this brave girl, and guess on whom did Rahul Bose- who also acted in the film- model his role on? Dr R S Praveen Kumar, Poorna’s real life mentor and inspiration!
A 1995-batch IPS officer, Dr Praveen Kumar’s outlook on his professional life underwent a deep change when, in 2011, he returned to Andhra Pradesh after a year-long study leave in the Harvard University. He made a rather strange request to the State Government, asking it to place him in charge of Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society.
The State Government agreed to Dr Kumar’s request, taking note of his zeal to work for the underprivileged, the dalits and the poor. He immediately realised two things: the new work did not have any glamour or trappings of power which he as a successful IPS officer had been used to all this while, and secondly what he was doing fell in the domain of IAS.
Very few civil servants make a conscious switch-over like this, from IPS to IAS. Continuing his discussion with Indian Masterminds, Dr Kumar said it normally would not be easy for a bureaucrat to choose a less glamorous posting. “But I volunteered for it,’’ he said, “because of this calling within myself. I knew all along that was my purpose in life, to help the needy. I realize there are other bureaucrats who have similar ideas. But many of them wait for their retirement to do start such things. By then, of course, it’s too late. Their energy starts failing, they don’t have much time left, they often get bogged down by family responsibility and most importantly, they don’t have the health of their youth.’’
Speaking about his childhood, Mr Kumar said though his parents did not have material luxuries, they gave him their unconditional love. “I was brought up in a village Amrabad, surrounded by forests and wildlife and quite far from cities. Usual comforts, which we in the metros take for granted, eluded me for several years. Till my class 8, there were no electricity poles in the village.’’
Later on, the family shifted out of the village. But Dr Kumar still recalls those days of hardships and toil. Perhaps they too were instrumental in making him a stronger person, and instilled in him “the calling’’ to reach out to the needy and the underprivileged.
Back to the School & SWAEROS
Once Dr Kumar assumed charge of Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society, there was no looking back. He had come here with a sense of mission. He introduced several measures which would give its students strength and confidence. One of his achievements is introducing the concept of SWAEROS, in all the 268 schools run by the society.
SWAEROS, a confidence building measure and techniques for the students, enabling them to come to grips with all challenges of life, is an acronym which stands for State Welfare Aeros. The aeros, derived from aerospace, give the sense of potential,as vast and unlimited as the sky, to the lakhs of students.
SWAEROS and its accompanying 10 commandments is a movement, explains Dr Kumar. So much so that a large number of students have changed the names in their birth certificates and `adhar’ cards to include SWAEROS, he added.
The 10 commandments of SWAEROS, which act like a compass for the students to successfully weather the storms of life, are:
I am not inferior to anyone.
I shall be the leader wherever I am.
I shall do what I love and be different.
I shall always think big and aim high.
I shall be honest, hardworking and punctual.
I shall never blame others for my failures.
I shall neither beg nor cheat.
I shall repay what I borrow.
I shall never fear the unknown.
I shall never give up.
Even Dr Kumar’s earlier avatar as an IPS officer is full of glorious achievements. At the time of Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy Government in Andhra Pradesh, he is credited with having brought the `Maoists’ to the negotiation table.
The Man and His Philosophy
Now of course Dr Kumar is in a different mould. His work has touched and transformed the lives of vast number of students coming from poor families. Like a beacon, or a source of light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel, he is helping these kids to achieve their true potential. “I am extremely grateful to the Chief Minister (Mr K Chandrashekar Rao) and the State Government to have given me this wonderful opportunity. Normally, on such posts where I am now, a bureaucrat gets transferred after three years. I am holding on for nine years,’’ he said.
It will not be easy to bracket Dr Kumar’s path-breaking work, his stupendous accomplishments, in clichés. That would be doing a disservice to the inner fire which drives him. But what is this fire which drives him? It can only be understood, rather felt, obliquely. Perhaps Dushyant Kumar, one of the finest Hindi poets of last century (or of any century, for that matter) understood it in his bones when he penned these unforgettable lines : Kaun Kehta Hai Asmaan Mein Suraakh Nahin Ho Sakta/ Ek Pathar Tau Tabiyat Se Uchalo Yaaro (Who says there can’t be a hole in sky/ Just throw up a stone with some passion).
Dr Kumar has done precisely that. With a force unmatched by most civil servants of India, he has thrown up a stone at the sky.
END OF THE ARTICLE