I consider a posting to be a role assigned to me by God in his Big Scheme of Things.

Shri S K Dogra IPS was born on 14th December, 1953 at Dhariwal, a small town in Punjab. He did his Master’s degree in English Literature and Linguistics from Baring Union Christian College, Batala, and then taught English Literature and Linguistics for over 5 years in the English Department of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

He joined Indian Police Service in 1982 and was allotted to Tamil Nadu cadre. He has served in different capacities in various parts of Tamil Nadu and is now the Additional Director General of Police in charge of the Prison Department. He takes interest in music and painting and is on the editorial board of Crisis Response Journal published from London. He also maintains a website dogratamil.com

In an exclusive interview, Shri S K Dogra shares with Marie Banu his role as a police officer.

You had held several portfolios in Indian Police Service. Is there any role that you cherish most?
My thinking is greatly influenced by the karmayogaphilosophy of SrimadBhagwadGeeta. I consider a posting to be a role assigned to me by God in his Big Scheme of Things. The karmayoga orientation prevents the ‘good-posting; bad-posting’ syndrome and helps me enjoy my work. Every posting offers new challenges and new opportunities to serve people. It gives you a glimpse of the society from an angle you had missed so far.
Karmayogateaches you to focus on the task and enjoy the act of performing it rather than wait for results. It makes you one with the task. You tend to lose your personal identity and become the role you are performing. For a follower of the karmayoga philosophy, the task is more significant than who performs it or who gets the credit. Once you learn to put your trust in Him and His Design, you begin to accept that every role He assigns to you as well as its timing is a part of a well thought-out decision. Steve Jobs called it ‘connecting the dots’.
At present, as the officer in charge of the prisons in Tamil Nadu, I am working on some projects with tremendous potential. During the past six months or so I have used meditation techniques in Puzhal prison to change the psychology of the prison-inmates. In the next couple of months, I hope to build up this entire edifice into a huge structure.
SrimadBhagwadGeeta and Maharishi Patanjali’sYog Sutras are two of our ancient scriptures that have deeply influenced my life. One taught me Karmayoga and the other Samadhi. These have become the two pillars on which I have built up my thinking, my life and my career.
Was this a reason you have emphasized on meditation, spirituality, and yoga in Puzhal prison?
Strictly speaking, meditation is not a part of any religion. The processes described in Yog Sutras are more easily understood in terms of neural activity of the brain and the spinal cord rather than in terms of any specific religion.
To my knowledge the only reference in Yog Sutras that could be called ‘religious’ is in the Sutra where the Maharishi says ‘tasyavaachakaahpranavah’, meaning ‘His name is Om’ and ‘tajapastadarthabhaavanam’, meaning during meditation the word Om should be pronounced and we should concentrate on its meaning. The word ‘Om’ simulates the pulsating transmission of energy. The repetition of the ‘Om’ sound, whether pronounced loudly or silently in the mind, puts the chakras into vibration and converts them into transmission systems in touch with the Universe, its energy, and God.
I am not sure whether this process should be called religious or scientific.
Incidentally, what I teach to the prison-inmates has nothing to do with all of this. I use a simple psychological technique that I learnt from my friend Dr. Rishi Tewari who runs a stress management centre in Egmore, Chennai. In this technique I take the prison-inmates to a deep level of concentration and then make them replace their negative thought processes with positive ones. Along with this, I use a number of feedback techniques. I have named the entire system ‘Reverse Socialisation’ and plan to build it as a model of reformation for other jails. I keep noting down my observations with a view to bring it out as a book.
When I asked one of the prison-inmates how my meditation techniques were affecting him, he said, “I feel something I had never felt before. Whenever I do something, someone in my mind seems to watch and assess it as good or bad.” I thought this was a great success for my effort. The prison-inmate had begun to develop a conscience, or what Freud would call the Super Ego.
The Tamil Nadu government recently sanctioned 45 lakh rupees for a bakery unit in Puzhal prison. Can you please tell us more about this?
The bakery is a part of a bigger concept called Prison Bazar. Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu wishes that reformation of prison-inmates should be combined with their rehabilitation as professionals. Prison Bazar will help us provide opportunities to the prison-inmates to learn trades and earn money while serving their sentence.
What are the challenges that the prison-inmates face after being released from jail? What are the steps taken by the government to support them?
At present a prison-inmate leaves a prison with the blot of being an ex-convict. I wish that our efforts turn the tide and a released prison-inmate is seen as a person recently returned from a kind of academy after a period of training and self-improvement.
A large part of my effort is focused on filling the mind of the prison-inmates with the idea that they are living in an ashram. In our society, an ashram has certain connotations—spirituality, piety of heart and habits, non-smoking, non-drinking, cleanliness of mind and body, etc. So, when this word ‘ashram’ is planted deep in the mind of a prison-inmate, it begins to play its role and changes the thinking as well as the behaviour of the person.
Fortunately, the Prison Bazar is likely to come at a time when I would have prepared the prison-inmates mentally for devoting themselves to work. It will be my effort to build the Prison Bazar around the idea of ‘labour as a process of self-purification’ rather than ‘labour as a way of earning money’.
Can you tell us about the marketing linkages for the products that are produced in the prison?
So far, we have been producing only for the government departments. It is a system where the production is driven by the order rather than a product seeking a market. Prison Bazaar will reverse the process. Under the Prison Bazaar, we will be working in a competitive market situation where quality, efficiency and uniqueness of product will decide success.
Honourable Chief Minister’s concept of Prison Bazaar creates the unique opportunity of utilising the labour-potential of the prison-inmates in a manner that provides a win-win situation for everyone. Now, it is for us in the Prison Department to translate it into a buzzing reality. Essentially, what I am doing these days through the meditation sessions in Puzhal, is to prepare the ground for a roaring success of the Prison Bazaar and to translate Honourable Chief Minister’s vision into reality.
Given the recent Assam communal riots and numerous honor killing cases, what are your thoughts on the value systems of the people in our country today?
We are living in a society that is changing each day. The value-system that sustained us through the centuries is crumbling under waves from the West. Traditional society had strong systems of control. Now, control is believed to hinder creativity. The media and films encourage the youth to rebel against anything and everything.
Everyone has his or her view on what the future culture should be like. I am the traditional type. I believe that a few fundamental features of our culture should not be allowed to fritter away. For me, the institution of family is very important. Similarly, we must teach our children to look at things from the point of view of others.
Much of today’s violence takes place because we don’t cultivate in our youngsters the quality of empathy. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. How many of us follow this? We believe what pains us doesn’t pain the others. A mob that can set someone on fire and watch without feeling the pain has moved as far away from humanity as the distance between heaven and hell. Every time such incidents occur one is constrained to wonder whether something has gone fundamentally wrong with our society.