Meditation and Policing

  I had enrolled for an interesting course on Coursera recently. Buddhism and Modern Psychology, taught by Robert Wright of Princeton Univ. Though the spirituality of emptiness and detachment may be of interest to only a few people, the most practical takeaway from the course was regarding the importance of meditation in bringing a sense of calm through an experiential understanding of the oneness of everything. I also thought that if practiced on a wider scale, meditation would be a very useful tool for quietening down the growing noise and anxiety of intolerance in society, and therefore a good preventive tool for the ‘law and order’ police. So to encourage meditation gatherings in public places, especially in areas of repeated conflict, can it be one manner of preventive policing methodology?

The issues of freedom of speech and police actions regarding the same, which have come to the fore from the recent JNU incident, are interesting to look at, on this background. There have been instances in the past too when questions arose on how much freedom should be protected by the police when certain kinds of public utterances can anger a section of the people and possibly vitiate public peace. This question is really more regarding the extent of tolerance by the society in general, to free speech. 

Police have a clear legal responsibility  to take actions to prevent disruptions of public peace and they also simultaneously have a clear responsibility to protect individual freedoms granted by the constitution. In a tolerant society, these two responsibilities should not conflict-at least not too often. In India, however, these conflicts have been happening and the police response has tilted more towards protecting public peace vis a vis the protection of freedom of speech. This is understandable as the police see their role primarily as keepers of ‘order’, not as social change agent. 

So to my way of looking at this problem, it appears that police needs to think outside the framework of only enforcing the laws, if any lasting and satisfactory solution is to be found. One way would be to think of ways to reduce the emotional excitability of the society. It will create a more peaceful and tolerant society.  And meditation is one such way. 

Changing Minds-Lecture Series 2

  After the first lecture last month in this series, which made us reflect on philosophical questions, our program’s second lecture was on the value of commitment.

 Shri Atul Karwal, an IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre was our speaker for this program. His talk was on finding your dream-which in his case was to climb the Mt Everest-and persevering with efforts and positivity, to achieve it, and it was very inspirational. The q&a following the talk gave me the idea that such sharing of experiences by achievers can make people shed their fears of dreaming big and achieving excellence. And any organization where employees dream big will surely be an extraordinary organization! And Vigilance departments may need to shut shop!!
The program is available on CIDCO’s Changing Minds YouTube channel.

Lecture Series-Changing Minds-1

 The first of the monthly lecture series for 2016, on the ‘Changing Minds’ project was a grand success-as I could gauge from the feedback from our employeesūüėä. The speaker was Dr Devdutt Pattanaik. And in keeping with his reputation as an effective communicator, he mesmerised the audience with his wisdom.
The program can be seen from the following YouTube link..Devdutt Pattanaik at CIDCO

This is experimental and I am excited to see if it’s possible to consolidate extraordinary goodness into an organization’s dna by helping employees think on values as a guiding force in life.

The Internet of Things..

 I have been involved since the last more than a year and half in conceptualising for implemention, the Disaster Mangement Center for CIDCO.  I initially visited the Mumbai DMC run by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, and then at CIDCO we had a pilot project in the monsoons of 2014 and 2015, called Emergency Operations Center (EOC), wherein calls of Navi Mumbai residents  regarding issues in public spaces, like tree fall, road flooding, snake bites etc were attended to urgently through this Center. The average resolution time in the pilot was 1-5 days last year and 0.95-3 days this year. So we are feeling confident that we can run a useful Emergency Operations Center which will operate all the year round, 24*7.  The process of tendering for a project management and implementation agency will start shortly. We have plans for call center like operations and also for pan-city resiliency building measures through training on fire and earthquake safety, by this Center.

An interesting thought came to me recently. Since this Center will run on data-data on peoples’ day to day grievances on public spaces and resolution of the same, and data on contacts of resolving agencies, ¬†can we pool in more data and create an IOT (Internet of Things) Center, to do smart governance for Navi Mumbai?

The Center will be part of CIDCO’s ongoing CCTV project for Navi Mumbai police, wherein the CCTV locations which are on Navi mumbai’s critical infrastructure, like major water supply pipelines, the holding ponds which are civil creations to control inflow and outflow of water vis a vis the sea, and other structures, will be watched by CIDCO officials through this Center. The Center will be equipped with a GIS map of Navi Mumbai. So if we can pool in health data on epidemics of diseases like malaria and dengue, which are much prevalent in Navi Mumbai, a software for hotspot mapping of evolving disease locations on the GIS map, can be very helpful in targeting remedial civic measures like fogging or better checks on water stagnancy conditions at construction sites, to cure the problem. This data pull from the urban health centres and hospitals of Navi Mumbai can be done through an ‘app’ to be developed for the same. Similarly, movement of garbage collection vehicles can be tracked by GPS on the GIS map at the Center. Both these datasets are related and will result in giving better public health services to the city’s residents.

The EOC will, of course, be hearing and resolving public complaints relating to the state of municipal ¬†services in the city. This data can also be used as a management tool, by picking out on the map, concentrations of various types of complaints area wise across the entire city, so that there is better focus and direction by the senior management on resolving the issues and public satisfaction at CIDCO’s services will surely rise.

Further, apps can be developed by CIDCO and offered to senior citizens and the women citizens of Navi Mumbai for urgent emergency communication to the EOC. EOC can act as a first responder to senior citizens calls by despatching  a well equipped cardiac ambulance. Even in the situation of crime against senior citizens, a medical response is the first need. In case of calls by women through the app, the same can be automatically redirected to the police control room as police must be the first responders on this. CIDCO can thereafter work with police using this data, to create safer public spaces for women through better lighting, guarding vacant and dangerous plots etc. Apps can also be developed to pool in data of school bus movements on the GIS maps. This app can make the bus movement data visible to school authorities and parents.

Also, like the disease hotspot mapping idea mentioned above, software for crime hotspot mapping at the police CCTV command Center will smarten up crime tracking and its prevention by police-multiplying the safety environment for the city.

Lots of ideas and work to do. But it would be very satisfying to help create this EOC as an  infrastructure for making the city of Navi Mumbai safe in a smart way.

Project: Changing Minds

¬†Vigilance Awareness Week-2015 just got concluded. The Central Vigilance Commission, this year, had a theme after my heart-‘Preventive Vigilance for better Governance’. People like me who have a strong prevention mindset are always working towards making behavioural changes, nudging employees’minds towards that which is desirable. The idea being that unless it comes from within, no change can really take root-both personally and for the organization.

So this year at CIDCO, we have initiated a year long program called ‘Changing Minds’, beginning with the programs of the Vigilance Week. This program will bring in speakers who have, through self motivation achieved something extraordinary with their lives, to try to create extraordinary role models for employees to emulate in their work and personal lives. The program will also organise events in the city to raise consciousness on the importance of vigilance and an environment of clean public service delivery. So in the Vigilance Week, we held an essay competition for students of 8th to 10th class on the topic of ‘Be the change you want to have’. Around 9000 students from 25 schools participated in the competition. Each school selected their best essay and we looked at those 25 essays. Reading those young thoughts which were full of hope made us feel the weight of our responsibility for their world.

The second program under this banner was to be an inter departmental 15-minute skit competition amongst CIDCO employees, on a choice of 4 topics relating to 4 aspects of personal behaviour which leads to a culture of corruption. Interestingly, this activity faced a curious hurdle-the employees’ union declared just before the performance of 7 groups which had practiced hard for the competition, that the employees will not participate in any vigilance program! The union was expressing openly its unhappiness at having a vigilance setup in CIDCO(vigilance dept was created in CIDCO only last year for the first time in its history since 1970)!!

The keynote speech initiating the ‘Changing Minds’ program was given during the Vigilance Week by CIDCO’s MD, Mr Sanjay Bhatia, on the subject ‘Vigilance and Spiritualism’ followed by a session of meditation. This really set the tone for the long term program-which is to influence changes at the personal level in order to create an aggregated atmosphere of integrity and ethics in the entire organization.

We have also put together a small Vigilance Stakeholders Group of RTI vigilantes who watch over CIDCO’s decision making, chairpersons of associations which have a lot of interaction with CIDCO departments for various services and Representative CIDCO officials. Vigilance department will hold meetings with this group periodically through out the year to hear upcoming concerns from the outside.

I am also putting together a Vigilance Strategy Document which I should be able to share soon. In all, prevention is a challenging goal. It needs a careful walk between incentives to promote compliance and an ability to enforce compliance. If ease of doing business is at all to improve in India, there is a lot of work to do in the Vigilance departments of government.

What Will it Take to Make Police a Learning Organization

 A thought came up during a relaxed reading of a very interesting book, ‘Moonlighting with Einstein’ by Joshua Foer. The book raises a curious question. Why don’t we keep on improving our speeds at typing, running, or whatever skill one is learning, if practice, as we are told, improves performance. So continued typing at work or continued practice for track competitions etc should theoretically lead one to continued better timings. But instead, after achieving a personal best speed, the performance stays put at near about that level. The book mentions that performance in skills typically goes through 3 stages. A first phase of cognition, when one is learning and constantly mentally questioning the manner of achieving goals and the levels of achievement, the 2nd phase when one goes into the automatic mode of performance, called the autonomous mode, and one doesn’t need to think actively through the performance as one did in the 1st phase. This phase leads to a sense of satisfaction and results in a ‘OK plateau’ after which there is no mental push for performance improvement. Most people and professions stop at this level. But expertise actually begins after this phase. If there is dogged practice on the difficult parts, in the skills involved in games or styles of management or leadership etc, it results in expertise.
In professional life, a practical application of these insights, is in the critical importance of feedbacks in continual improvement of performance through constant learning of failures. The book gives an example from the medical profession where radiologists have very little natural feedback obtaining opportunities due to their distance from the actual patient and the progression of his disease. Therefore, expertise setting in isn’t easy unless the radiologist purposefully seeks a feedback from the treating physician/surgeon. In contrast, the surgeon gets natural feedback on the surgery done by seeing the patient improve or deteriorate. And this gets intuitively inbuilt into the surgeon’s subsequent surgeries.

This got me thinking-is there any hope for Police or Forensic scrutiny to achieve expertise levels in crime detection and public agitation management? The court’s feedback on their performance is practically non-existent due to long drawn out court trials and judgments. In December 2014, there was news about a criminal trial taking 40 years to complete! And this was just the trial court stage, with appeal before the higher courts still a possibility in that case! So there is clearly no immediate possibility of feedbacks from court trials to be working on expertise development in police and forensics. Currently, the only feedback is the media led criticism of police actions/inactions. And criticism only makes the department defensive.  Can we devise any other manner of feedback on our performance so that we can constantly learn from our failures and improve?

I think we can look at people for that feedback. The Crime Victimization Surveys that I’ve been advocating since a few years now, shows that glimmer of hope for Police departments across India to get feedback on safety and security in police station jurisdictions, from people actually consuming those services of the Police department. A 6-monthly or yearly such survey, can point us quantitatively to our successes and shortcomings. And working on solutions for the problem areas in our performance, can give us feedback in the next  surveys. Failing and learning are important to growth and policing is no exception to this rule.