“Despite Commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat Sir’s busy schedule, he would share articles every day, frame questions and write model answers,” said one mentee.
Mahesh M Bhagwat, the Police Commissioner of Rachakonda, is more than a police officer with an illustrious resume.
Going beyond the call of duty, he has successfully assisted 35 candidates, among whom are several underprivileged aspirants, in passing the critical interview stage of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) recruitment examination conducted by the UPSC. The interview for these candidates was held between June 24 and July 24, 2019.
What’s more, he mentored these students from Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh through WhatsApp.
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“Every mark counts, and for the last couple of years, I’ve been mentoring civil servants aspirants, particularly for the interview stage. However, in March 2019, we decided to start a WhatsApp group for CAPF aspirants. For the CAPF interview, you have the same UPSC panels that conduct interviews for the civil services. The quality of questions is also more or less the same,” says Commissioner Bhagwat, speaking to The Better India.
Every year, the UPSC holds an examination for the recruitment of Assistant Commandants (Group A) in the CAPF viz. Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force(CISF), Indo‐Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). These forces play a critical role in the maintenance of the nation’s internal and border security.
The mentoring sessions covered every possible subject area, and a particular emphasis was given to questions about the candidates’ respective graduation subjects, hobbies, areas of interest, work related to the different forces, questions about the inception of these five forces, and issues like cross-border terrorism, naxalism, right and left-wing extremism.
Through the WhatsApp group, Commissioner Bhagwat posted important news articles, resource material on key topics, while aspirants pose questions about the detailed application forms they submit to the UPSC, which he addresses individually.
From around 70-80 aspirants in the WhatsApp group who reached the interview stage, 35 passed with flying colours. Addressing the media earlier this month, he said the idea to form a WhatsApp group to mentor aspirants was given to him by a colleague in Customs, Nitesh Patode.
Aside from the WhatsApp group, Bhagwat mentors students in six other such groups, of which five are for different aspects of the civil services and one is for the forest service. Every year 90-100 civil service aspirants that he mentors get selected.
“When I was preparing for the civil services, I also received similar mentorship, so this is my way of giving back to society. This phase (interview) is very crucial, and aspirants may not get the opportunity to interact with other candidates or seniors who are already in service and acquire insight. With this in mind, I started these groups. Here I also mentor them on what to say and what not to say. Some candidates come from very humble backgrounds, and I help them dodge potential landmines during the interview,” he says.
Some of the students, Commissioner Bhagwat, has helped come from challenging circumstances.
Take the example of Bapusaheb Gaikwad, the son of a watchman and domestic help.
After passing out of a Marathi-medium village school, he completed his diploma from a polytechnic. As his parents could not afford to finance his education further than that, he began earning for the family. Thanks to the diploma he got a job at L&T, where he worked for five years supporting his younger brother’s studies.
When his brother finally got a job as a teacher at the Kendriya Vidyalaya, he told Bapusaheb to resign from his job and finish college.
“It was my dream to serve the country, but I couldn’t give any of these competitive public service exams without a college degree. Upon completing my graduation, I also ended up doing some social work for a year or two before I moved to Delhi in 2017. I prepared for a year, and got through the CAPF exam in my first attempt,” says Bapusaheb, speaking to The Better India.
He had found out about Commissioner Bhagwat’s WhatsApp group last year through a roommate who had also sought the top cop’s help to crack the interview stage of the civil services examinations, and gone on to become an IPS officer.
“Sir helped us prepare for questions that interviewers would ask on the ‘Detailed Application Form’ (DAF) we submitted to the UPSC, helping us analyze each word. For example, we would discuss our hobbies, and he would pose many questions. For instance, trekking is my hobby, so he gave me two or three PDF files and fielded a lot of questions. In fact, a lot of the questions I was asked during the interview were posed to me by Sir during our preparations,” he says.
Bapusaheb believes he has a good chance of getting into the CRPF and join as an Assistant Commandant. What interests him is working in difficult zones like Maoist-affected areas.
“Despite his busy schedule and the international prestige he has earned, he would share 15-20 articles on the group every day, frame questions and write model answers for them as well. He was a personal guide for us. He would also teach us from his extensive experience as a police officer. For example, he started a community policing initiative in the once Naxal-affected Adilabad district, which proved very successful. He also spoke of how he tackled human trafficking in his district as well, and the lessons we can learn from that. One time we also discussed the Pulwama terror attack, and asked him questions like ‘as officers, if we were in the area when the attack happened, what should be our response? How do we deal with the injured by living jawans?’ He gave us a lot of fascinating insights into it. Thus, despite never giving a mock interview, my interview went very well,” he recalls.
However, he wants to give one attempt for the civil service exams as well, and become an officer in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
As does Srinivas Gonugunta, the son of a daily-wager, who cleared the CAPF exam thanks to Commissioner Bhagwat’s WhatsApp group and expects to get inducted into the CISF with the rank of Assistant Commandant.
“My father is a mason and my mother a homemaker. I currently live in a suburb in Hyderabad, which is located in Telangana’s Rangareddy district. This place falls under the jurisdiction of the Rachakonda Police Commissionerate. My father works in the same Green Park Colony, where I did my schooling,” he says.
It’s been a difficult road for Srinivas, who couldn’t afford coaching classes or accommodation in Delhi, where thousands of civil service aspirants come to study.
He studied on his own at home with whatever material he could gather before finding the Telangana Study Circle (TSC), a state government initiative to help students from economically weaker sections to prepare for these competitive public service exams giving them accommodation among other things. Unable to clear the Mains, he was soon asked to leave the TSC premises.
“I would like to thank my parents for supporting me through these tough times despite their humble means. A few days before the written exams last year, my father suffered from heart problems and had to undergo an operation. It was a tough moment for me emotionally, but I stayed focus and gave it my all, and thankfully passed,” he recalls.
It was during the physical standards test, when a friend of his from the same batch (All India Rank 49), informed him about Commissioner Bhagwat’s WhatsApp group.
“Bhagwat Sir is an experienced police officer. He gave me specific inputs to answer questions on Naxalism in Telangana. This time, a lot of questions were being asked on socio-economic issues like farmer suicides. Sir gave us handouts about why these suicides happen and what are the possible solutions for it. In the interview, I was asked about farmer suicides. I followed Sir’s approach of answering questions, and succeeded,” he says.
“Cracking the CAPF exams, I believe, will put me in good stead to pass the civil service exams as well,” he adds.
Just to get a sense of all the useful material Commissioner Bhagwat shared on the group, Akshay Pangarikar, who secured an All India Rank of 3, and is the son of humble farmers from Parbhani district, Maharashtra, shares an interesting anecdote with The Better India.
“It was my fourth attempt. My last interview went very poorly, and I missed the cut-off by two marks. This time, I diligently went through all the material shared by Sir. In fact, he shared so much that when I went to photocopy it, the total number of pages came up to 2500. I scored 98 out of 150!” says Akshay.
For the potential Assistant Commandant in the CISF, however, there was more to Commissioner Bhagwat’s contributions than material and advice on WhatsApp.
“Initially, I was afraid to talk to him directly. Also, I’m not very good at speaking English, so I thought that if I say something wrong, he will get annoyed. However, when I started messaging him, he would respond within a couple of minutes. A few days before the interview, he called me and told me to be calm and that everything was going to be alright. He called me within 10 minutes of the declaration of results, and was the first one to wish me,” he recalls.
Yes, Commissioner Bhagwat mentored them from a distance, but there was also an undeniable human touch. Calling them before and after the interview, encouraging them, and individually addressing their concerns are steps that have given aspirants from very humble background the confidence to reach new heights in life.
For a senior officer, who has so much on his plate, it’s indeed admirable that he still has the time to help those in need.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)