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INDIA BEATS

Beyond duty

K. PRADEEP

The vision of a police officer, Nanma serves as a link between the needy and those willing to help.

Photo: H. Vibhu

Faith in goodness: P. Vijayan in Udaya Nagar, Kochi.

THE responsibilities of a police officer are extremely wide-ranging and very often not limited to the duties mentioned in their "textbooks". They are expected to be able to respond in some fashion to all kinds of situations that may arise while on duty. But, the idea for "Nanma", a voluntary service organisation, was born in the mind of P. Vijayan, IPS, to extend assistance to society beyond what his official duties warranted.

"A police officer gets involved not just in law and order issues. Wherever I was posted, I have had numerous people come to me with all sorts of requests. Most of them were genuine but I could do nothing. I did try to console myself believing that it was not really my duty. But somewhere within me I knew I should have helped them. This was something I must have carried with me right from the time I joined the force. When posted in Kochi, it was no different. Only, this time I decided to act as a link between the needy and those willing to help. There were so many like-minded people who needed to join hands. That was how Nanma came about," explains Mr. Vijayan.

Touching hearts

An honest attempt to touch hearts, Nanma has very clear perspectives. It does not make any tall claims or commitments but only direct people to the right counter for help. "Most of the people who approach us are those who have absolutely no idea of the various avenues of help. The needs vary from medical assistance to support to pursue academic careers. We have a team of doctors, businessmen and social workers who are genuinely involved in our activities."

Very quietly, without much ado, Nanma has been providing succour to the many who have knocked at their doors. Helping a four-year-old boy in need of regular dialysis; providing for an old woman and her disabled son; buying and building a house for the surviving members of a nomadic family that met with a road accident; offering aid for higher education for a few brilliant but indigent children. "We first make a preliminary investigation to ascertain the genuineness of the cases. Once we are sure that they are deserving of help, we begin to look for people who can help them. I'm now sure that there is a lot of goodness around; we only have to find them."

Perhaps one of the most praiseworthy efforts was Nanma's multi-pronged attempt to "cleanse" Udaya Colony. As the city crime records reveal, this colony, where around 150 families are holed up in miserable conditions, has been the breeding ground for crimes in Kochi. There have been attempts in the past to bring the residents of this colony to the mainstream. But they have not been very successful. "The first hurdle we encountered when we embarked on Operation Udaya was the scepticism of the colony residents. They seemed absolutely sure that this project would fizzle out after the early enthusiasm. But we were determined to prove them wrong. We launched a sustained campaign here. We began by focussing on the young generation. Of course, we did not in any way interfere with the law with regard to those involved in various cases. The children here needed to be educated, not merely a conventional one but emphasising on spotting their talents and guiding them through workshops and games."

Organising health camps is often what most voluntary organisations do. They are never sustained nor do they care for proper follow up. So, it was only natural that the first medical camp organised by Nanma was thinly attended. But they went on with it regularly, winning the confidence of the residents. "We are there every month. It is not just heeding to their medical needs, it is an attempt to build confidence in us. We have gone a step beyond this, like providing livelihood by setting up public call booths."

Long-term vision

Project Candlelight is yet another effort that Nanma has now initiated. "It envisages eliminating the darkness that envelops a large number of our children. We hope to take their hand and lead them to a space from where they can take the right decisions on their future. We will identify 1,000 students from 33 government and aided schools in and around Ernakulam. A team comprising the Principal, teachers and parents will choose the children. They will be selected on the problems they encounter in pursing quality education. The goal is to remove the impediments these children face in their academic careers. The project will remove all these blocks through continuous monitoring and assistance to the selected students. A pool of resource persons who can help guide these children will also be provided by us."

The project is not restricted to children alone. "We have found that inappropriate parenting and insufficient teaching are two major problems that children encounter. For parents, we will organise counselling sessions to bring them out of their limiting beliefs and mental blocks. For teachers we propose to create modules on quality teaching tools in association with UNICEF. Our role, like in all our projects, will be in identifying the beneficiaries and spotting the sponsors. Discussions are also on with some leading public schools in the district to accept children from this selected group. This will enable them to merge with the upward moving segment of their counterparts and build a solid future for them."

Nanma firmly believes that a generation properly trained and employed will help change society. Nanma, the vision of a police officer, believes in finding goodness in all human beings, a speck of light even in darkness. "It will serve to connect the needy and the donor. I will carry Nanma with me wherever I go from now on," says Mr. Vijayan.

India Beats features stories of the unusual, the exotic and the extraordinary.

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