Over the last few days, thousands of people have been asking Dr RS Praveen Kumar, an IPS officer turned educationalist in Telangana, to turn to electoral politics. The move comes after his decision to take voluntary retirement. Speculation over whether or not he would enter politics is creating a buzz in the state. Several students, student unions, leaders and others are participating in bike rallies, walkathons and conducting meetings, pitching for the same. The buzz that the decision to retire by Praveen Kumar, who was heading the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS), is creating in Telangana, is the result of his quality service to the people of Telangana.
Over the last few years, Praveen has managed to turn around the TSWREIS, providing quality education to several lakh children, especially those from marginalised communities. He is also a key member of Swaeroes, a social transformation movement involving the alumni of the welfare institutions, which works towards social upliftment.
As an IPS officer
A 1995-batch officer, when Praveen was posted as the Superintendent of Police in Karimnagar District, the area saw widespread Maoist activity. He encouraged a number of people to surrender, as around 46 Maoists laid down their arms. Retaining them in the mainstream was tough as those who surrendered felt threatened by the police and their former comrades. Praveen then came up with a novel programme called â€˜Parivarthana Sadassuâ€™ at Huzurabad and Husnabad villages, where hundreds of militants were made to assemble and their names were deleted from police records after an investigation. It was not the end of the daunting task.
Another unique programme called â€˜Nimmajanamâ€™ was devised to infuse confidence in those who had surrendered. Their pending records were handed over to them, to be discarded. Meanwhile, Praveen also dispatched district police personnel to find out the root cause of the problem, which led to the growth of extremism. Illiteracy was identified as one of them.
Following this, in Rangampet village police motivated residents to organise â€˜Maa Vooriki Randi - Mathoney Undandiâ€™ (Come to our village, stay with us). The objective behind the programme was to go door-to-door, inviting teachers living in nearby towns and cities, to come to their village in order to impart basic education to their kids by offering them free food and accommodation. This particular programme soon transformed into a major movement across the state, inspiring the government to issue Government Order (GO) 45, dictating that its employees should reside at their workplaces.
As Secretary of TSWREIS
The constant thought of uplifting marginalised communities in the state compelled Praveen to later retire as a cop and take charge as the Secretary of the TSWREIS, a role usually held by a bureaucrat. Within a matter of years, he revolutionised the organisation.One of the first success stories that gained attention was that of then young children Malavath Poorna and Sadhanapalli Anand Kumar, hailing from remote hamlets in Telangana, who became some of the youngest to scale Mt Everest in 2014 in the world.
Soon, marginalised groups, which previously saw huge drop-out rates, saw students from these schools getting admissions into prestigious universities in India and abroad. At present, the TSWREIS, run by the Telangana government, oversees 268 residential educational institutions, with free boarding and education facilities, for thousands of underprivileged children each year. As per policy, 75% of the seats are reserved for the SC community, while another 6% is reserved for those belonging to the ST community.
In fact, the society was so successful that it was taken up as a case study in Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. Through his work with the TSWREIS, Praveen showed that it was not poverty that was a barrier to success, but lack of opportunity.
The demand for his political entry
The demand for Praveenâ€™s political entry is a dream for many as he provided hope to the people of Telangana, to re-engineer society as a whole. They are inviting him with the hope that he would stand for the people by upholding the unfinished legacy of Dr BR Ambedkar, Kanshiram, Mahatma Jyothiba Phule and Savitriba Phule among others.
A number of leaders have come and gone but the socio-economic conditions of marginalised communities in society have seen little progress. Elections will decide the future of any state and with Telangana going to the polls in 2023, many see it as an opportunity to prove the potential of transforming the lives of historically disadvantaged sections.
While speculation is rife with some media reports even speculating that Praveen would join the TRS and could be propped up as the candidate for the upcoming Huzurabad bye-election, the retired IPS officer himself, is yet to talk about his future plans. For now, all eyes are on him.
The writer is a post-graduate from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, and a first-generation product of the Swaeros movement. Views expressed are the author's own.