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The Founder of ‘Mitra Police’

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Ashok Kant Sharan (30 April, 1942 – 22 September, 2022)

By Aloke B Lal

The founding chief of Uttarakhand police, Ashok Kant Sharan, breathed his last in the night of September 22, 2022. He was a member of the 1965 batch of the Indian Police Service.

To say that Sharan was an illustrious member of the Indian Police Service would be to understate the special place he enjoys among the best of the lot. He had the opportunity to found a police force from scratch for a new-born state of the Indian Union, then called Uttaranchal. With all the experience he mustered during his distinguished innings in Uttar Pradesh, his original cadre, he needed to bring to the fore his special gifts of a rare visionary and an exceptional leader.

File photo: Ashok Kant Sharan releases a book written by Devki Nandan Pandey. Also seen in the pic is late Dr Girija Shankar Trivedi.

The carving out of little Uttaranchal out of a mammoth Uttar Pradesh should have been a smooth affair. There should have been planning to the last detail of how a fledgling unit will deal with challenges that were by no means going to be ordinary. The difficulty was exacerbated owing to inadequate resources that remained with Uttaranchal. The police machinery relies on effectiveness on communications, mobility and, above all, manpower. All these resources were going to be scarce. To say that, in sharing resources, the Big Brother (Uttar Pradesh) was being less than generous would be to put it mildly. The initial months were a saga of continuous parlays with the bureaucracy and police brass of UP which were, unfortunately, proving to be low-result efforts. Having been hand-picked to be the first Director-General of Police of Uttaranchal, it was a task of enormous proportions that Sharan had to address.

It is often said that a captain is only as good as the team that he has. Sharan proved that a good captain is one who carves out an effective team with the given manpower. I remember that, on one occasion, when we had to deal with huge crowds at a snan (ritual bathing) in Haridwar, and our limited manpower appeared to be affecting the morale of the officers, he gave us a simple mantra, ‘Believe in yourself!’ He went on to explain, ‘You will pass through the stages of self-doubt, dejection and low morale. You may think that the task at hand is impossible. But when you choose to believe in your team, the results you can achieve will be for all to see. Great things happen only if you are willing to take the first step.’ The snan passed off peacefully with not even a minor glitch. His leadership thus inspired all those who had the opportunity to work with him.

The visit of the then Home Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, was the next challenge, for it called for police bandobast at the Prime Ministerial scale because of his senior status. Not only did Sharan oversee all arrangements, he also grabbed the opportunity to invite the Home Minister to the Police Lines to launch the website of Uttaranchal Police, release its vision and mission statements and coin the moniker, ‘Mitra Police’, for it. Thus the philosophy that guides the state police till date was established.

As a boss, he was a hard task master, but was attentive to all the needs and problems of his subordinates. He took interest in the personal lives of his team members so that he could extend help where it was required. He treated us as family.

Ashok Kant Sharan enjoyed joie de vivre at social gatherings. He loved old Hindi film songs and would often ask us to sing them. His personal favourite was ‘Ramaiyya Vasta Vayya…’ from the film Shri 420, and he lent his voice to the chorus when this song was sung. There is a line in this song – ‘Maine Dil Tujhko Diya’. As I look back, it appears to me that he was a man who had given not merely his hard work to his own police force, he had surrendered his heart to it.

(Author Aloke B Lal is a retired IPS Officer. He was former DGP Uttarakhand).