Put your heart and soul into whatever task you’re assigned
Mohinder Pal Singh Aulakh, a former director general of Punjab Police who spent most of his 35-year career in the Intelligence Bureau, is a self-confessed recluse. Turning 74 next month, Aulakh says the nature of his job may have led him to keep a discreet profile but his biggest strength has been being honest to himself and others.
“Life is a constant learning process. Everything can’t be taught in the classroom. You learn life’s lessons on the road or in the field, the hard way, particularly during a crisis. So the best approach is to put your heart and soul into whatever work you’re assigned,” says the 1970-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, who was originally allotted the Gujarat cadre.
Whether it’s controlling crowds in communally sensitive times or battling the aftermath of a cyclone or conducting night patrols to check bootlegging and smuggling in dry Gujarat, Aulakh says being hands-on from Day 1 helped. “As an assistant superintendent of police at Anand (then in Kheda district), I was given independent charge. When you’re by yourself early in life, you learn to be decisive. One has to have the strength to take a stand. You can only be right or wrong. Chin up and face the consequences but don’t pass the buck. We are already suffering because of this culture of indecisiveness,” he says.
LEARNING FROM ALL
Life for a cop in Gujarat was frugal by Punjab standards. “I would cycle to work and join the night patrol. We were required to reach office by our own transport. The official vehicle was allowed only during crowd control or VIP visits,” says Aulakh of policing in the ’70s.
A valuable lesson the Jat Sikh officer got from a senior was that one should know one’s work inside out. “He would check if records were taken down meticulously and would reiterate that ‘sab kuch apne haath se karna aana chahiye (one should be hands on)’.”
A true leader, he says, is one who takes all team members along. “It’s important to respect subordinates as much as you respect seniors else you run the risk of them ditching you when you need them the most. Never try to take away someone’s self respect. A reprimand should be delivered in private preferably.”
The leader also takes responsibility for his/her subordinate’s mistakes. “Accept a mistake humbly even if it’s been made by your junior. No one is perfect. In the course of work, mistakes do take place but there’s no need to lose one’s cool over a bonafide one.”
TRUTH BE TOLD
He agrees there’s hardly any scope for mistakes in gathering and communicating intelligence. “You learn to be precise and prompt. Communication has to be clear and concise after ferreting out inputs from heaps of information. Your sources must be unbiased and accurate. Above all, be truthful in conveying what you learn but also know who to trust,” says Aulakh of his learnings on the job.
“Intelligence is relevant if it’s received in time. Otherwise the information becomes history that you can’t act upon,” says the cop who was posted in the IB at Amritsar from 1980-85. He went on to serve in Punjab Police in Gurdaspur, Ferozepur and Bathinda after a cadre change.
Even today long after he retired in 2005 as director general of police (prisons), he keeps a writing pad and pen in his pocket. “You never know when and where you want to make a note of something,” he says with a smile.
Aulakh, who owns a resort near the airport in Mohali, says Chandigarh’s infrastructure is heavily under strain by the periphery, so much so that it is affecting the character of the city. “It’s become a dynamic city but being a cop, the only problem I see is the growing incidents of crime. Chandigarh has a different administration, while neighbouring Panchkula and Mohali districts are governed by the Haryana and Punjab governments. For effective control over crime, the tricity needs a unified command for the police due to the contiguous topography,” he says.
“Police personnel are overworked. People who accuse them of corruption should first ask: Who bribes cops? Who makes them corrupt? Police personnel are part of the same society. If citizens are self-disciplined, follow traffic rules and have civic sense, we will all breathe easier.”
Don’t take office work home.
Be frugal, self-disciplined and hands-on.
Be humble, no one is indispensable.
Use words carefully, be precise and keep the notepad handy.