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Training the youth for a better future: When cops turn guardian angels

Delhi’s Police’s youth engagement programme focuses on skill development and getting jobs for the underprivileged youth under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

delhi Updated: Dec 17, 2017 09:14 IST
Students take part in a skill development training course at the New Usmanpur police station in New Delhi.(Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

Amreen, 18, was quite edgy as she entered the New Usmanpur police station on a balmy September morning with her uncle, a motorbike mechanic. She was dressed in a salwar kurta, her rough, tangled hair hanging loose. She was led up the stairs to the second floor past an interrogation room with armed policemen in uniform standing guard outside.

Her heart was beating fast.

Within minutes, she found herself sitting before a woman, a counsellor, who calmed her down and talked to her like a friend wanting to know her interests, her hobbies — and what she wanted to do with life.

It was the first time in life someone asked her these questions. It was for the first time she felt there were choices to make in life.

Three months on, the police station is her favourite place – her training school where she goes to learn make-up art.

“Here I also learnt to talk, to look and feel good about myself,” says Amreen, who is nattily turned out in a brown jacket and leggings, her eyes wearing kohl. We are in the ‘classroom’ on the first floor of the police station. It looks more like a salon: there is a large mirror with two upholstered chairs in front of it; there are hairstyle posters on the wall, and glass shelves with an assortment of cosmetics.

Amreen is one of the 120 local youngsters for whom the New Usmanpur police station has been a training institute for the past three months. They come every morning and evening in two shifts to attend classes in grooming, computer data entry, make-up and mobile repair.

The New Usman Pur police station in New Delhi. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

The courses are part of YUVA –Delhi’s Police youth engagement programme that focuses on skill development and getting jobs for the underprivileged youth under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). The courses are presently being conducted in eight police stations of Delhi.

For many youngsters like Amreen, their tryst with the police station has been quite a transformative journey: an opportunity to step out of homes alone for the first time, to learn how to dress well and speak. Neha Jaiswal, another 18-year-old attending the course, says it is also an opportunity to ‘learn how to interact with boys.’ “ It has made me more confident.”

There are five boys in Neha’s class, which is dominated by girls. One of them is Md Aftab, who was convinced to come to the police station by a beat constable. The constable, he says, informed the local community the police station was conducting skill development courses that would help the youth get jobs. He immediately agreed but his only problem was the venue. “Police station is not the place you ever want to go. But the constable convinced me and my family that the police station can also be a place of learning,” he says.

Interestingly, Rohit Verma, who is attending the computer course, says it was his curiosity to see the police station from the inside that inspired him to join the course. “Every time I would go upstairs, I would look left at the interrogation room, where there always a few new offenders. It had made me realise that it is a great place to come as student, but not as a criminal,” says Verma 20, a BA third-year student through correspondence. “I am happy that I have acquired many new computer skills here that will help me get a job.”

The police have roped in companies working in the area of skill development to impart training. The Usmanpur police station has four trainers and one counsellor.

The police decide who gets admission in its skill development centres across the city. Pooja Singh, the counsellor at the New Usmanpur police station, says she talks to selected youngsters and advises them on the choice of the course according to their aptitude. “They come from poor backgrounds. They all treat it as an opportunity to learn a skill and get a job. They all believe they can make it,” she says. “But sometimes, their expectations are high. One of the students expected a salary of Rs 20 lakh a year after he completed the courses.”

It is 2.30 pm and a fresh batch has arrived for the evening classes. Raj Kumar Saha, the Station House Officer (SHO), drops in for an informal interaction with the students. He has joined recently and has not met them before. “You need not fear police. The police are your friend and we want that you learn something here, which helps you to do well in life,” says Saha, addressing the students like the principal of a school. In his uniform, he looks incongruous in the surrounds of a make-up art class.

He asks the students, especially the girls, to be careful when they return in the evening. “The area is full of chain-snatchers and drunkards,” he says. He asks them to take down his mobile number and everyone opens their dairies. “You should feel free to dial anytime in case there is a problem.”

For 120 local youngsters, the New Usmanpur police station has been a training institute for the past three months. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Saha is not exaggerating. Just outside the police station is a failed hotel, which has now become a hub of liquor shops. Drunken men roaming about the place is quite a common sight. “It is a heavy police station, and policing is a daily challenge here. These students are our responsibility,” Saha says, sitting in his cabin. On one of the walls is a chart that lists the crimes in the police station’s jurisdiction. The number of chain-snatchings has come down to 110 from 171 last year, but rape cases have increased to 25 from 16 last year.

Recently, Usmanpur, a raffish, crime-prone area with garbage dumps and multi-storey box-like houses rising all around, was in the news for a string of killings, including the brutal murder of a 22-year-old student, which led to a riot-like situation, and the murder of 23-year-old by motorcycle-borne men captured on camera.

Special commissioner of police (traffic) and chief spokesperson, Delhi Police, Dependra Pathak, says that Yuva is part of their community policing programme. The idea behind it, he says, is to connect with the youth in slum clusters, resettlement colonies and other areas with high rates of juvenile crime.

“We found that a lot of youngsters involved in the crime were school drop-outs. There is a lack of parenting, education, and social control in these areas,” he says. “Our initiative aims to counter these circumstances and wean them away from crime.”

Sanjay Beniwal, Special CP (Women’s Safety and Modernisation), who is managing the programme, says: “We wanted to talk to the youth and empower them. Many youngsters we have trained have already got jobs. Earlier, the police station was a place where people came only when they were in distress. We also want to change this image,” he says.

First Published: Dec 17, 2017 07:33 IST