12 August 2019
Jagdalpur: The three stars that sit pretty along with the 'IPS' shoulder badge of Chhattisgarh cadre officer Suraj Singh Parihar have a long tale to tell. The Uttar Pradesh man, who is at the forefront of the battle against Maoists, however, crisply says: "IPS is not a job, it is a service."
The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), now posted in the Maoist-affected district of Dantewada, surmounted his language difficulties and traversed a long zigzag path through diverse career options before finding his final calling.... as of now!
His success was built over several failures in cracking the UPSC Civil Services Examination and only getting into the desired service on his fourth attempt. Many of his contemporaries gave up the civil service dream after one or two attempts.
Living with his grandparents in Uttar Pradesh's Jaunpur till completing his primary education, Parihar studied in a small village school and grew up on inspiring stories of men who served the country from his grandfather. After class five, he moved with his parents to Kanpur's suburb of Jajmau and joined a Hindi-medium school.
He was adept not just in academics, but in sports and creative writing too. In 2000, he won the National Bal Shree Award for Creative Writing and Poetry from then President K.R. Narayanan.
During the selection rounds at zonal and national level, young Parihar suffered a complex against his peers, who could speak English fluently. He could read, write and comprehend the language. But with very few persons speaking the language at home or at school, conversation was hard to practice.
He started self-tutoring himself by reading newspapers, watching English channels and conversing with himself in the mirror. "People made fun when they saw me speak to the mirror. But that didn't deter me," says Parihar.
In 2001, having scored 81 per cent and a distinction in five subjects, he topped his college in Class 12 exams of the UP board. This should have ensured entry in the best institutes. That didn't happen. Parihar had different plans. He set up an English-speaking coaching institute with his friend while pursuing graduation. This was just to help his father who was the sole breadwinner in his joint family.
The institute was, however, shut down after a dispute with the landlord. He briefly worked for a corporate house before joining a call centre in Noida as executive. That job meant more struggle. But with struggle came the resolve for better preparation for UPSC as he polished his accent and voice modulation. He wasn't a graduate yet. While his short-term goal was to send some money home, the bigger one was to finish graduation and appear in the civil service exams. He left the call centre and moved to Delhi with some savings to join a coaching course for the UPSC examination.
Within six months, Parihar ran out of funds. In the mean time, however, he had taken eight bank examinations for job of a probationary officer and cleared all.
He first joined the Bank of Maharashtra but then switched to the State Bank of India. This relatively better job did not kill his IPS dream. While still with SBI, he appeared for CSE-2011 but did not qualify. He then decided to quit his bank job to focus on the civil services. The second attempt too did not work. Meanwhile, Parihar also cleared the SSC Combined Graduate Level Exam with all India rank of 23.
So, after leaving the SBI, he joined the Customs and Excise Department as an inspector, a job that allowed him to prepare for the UPSC exams through week-ends.
He again appeared for CSE in 2012. Though he was better prepared this time, he failed to crack the Main Examination. He did manage to clear the exam in third attempt and got into the Indian Revenue Service. Still not satisfied, he re-attempted the exam. Finally, at 30, he bagged the 189th All India Rank and made it to the IPS.
Initially posted at Raipur as a probationer, confirmation brought to the Maoist-hit Dantewada as the ASP.
Parihar says he uses a blend of soft and hard policing techniques to address the Maoist issue. Apart from conducting police operations and civic action in Maoist-affected areas with the Superintendent of Police, Parihar also launched creative initiatives to counter the Maoist propaganda, including a non-commercial awareness film titled "Nayi Subah ka Sooraj". To create awareness, he also wrote poems and made a video song on the issue.
"Many aspirants ask me about the material benefits of being an IPS... I ask them to find a deeper motivation," says Parihar.