Indian Police Service (IPS) officers are usually portrayed on the big screen as swashbuckling heroes beating up trigger-happy roughnecks. Poorna , however, is based on the true life story of Telangana IPS officer Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar, and will have a different story. Multi-faceted actor Rahul Bose plays the role of the cop who inspired the youngest girl to scale Mount Everest — the film takes its name from Malavath Purna, the daughter of tribal farm labourers who studied at the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS), the residential schools for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and underprivileged children that Dr. Kumar has transformed into talent incubators as its Secretary. “Many had apprehensions about making students go for mountaineering, but the students were willing and more so, the girls,” says the 49-year-old.
A product of the social welfare hostel himself, Dr. Kumar hung up his uniform five years ago and volunteered to take over the moribund TSWREIS, surprising his peers and superiors alike. The hostels were in a pitiable state with few takers and funds allocated for them got reverted as they were not spent. “We had to change the mindsets, infrastructure and pedagogy,” he recalls. Within two years, he had transformed the once-dingy hostels into institutes of excellence and now, poor Dalit parents flock to admit their wards here, especially girls. What Dr. Kumar did was to insist on an English-medium education. Students were motivated first through peer groups like The Hindu ’s E-Plus clubs, video lessons and counselling. Then, he unleashed the ‘10 commandments’ — “I am not inferior to anyone, I shall be the leader wherever I am, I shall do what I love and be different, I shall always think big and aim high, I shall be honest, hardworking and punctual, I shall never blame others for my failures, I shall neither beg nor cheat, I shall repay what I borrow, I shall never fear the unknown, I shall never give up.”
Students chant this every day as if to remind themselves of the tasks ahead.
Soon, alumni from TSWREIS were securing admission to courses in engineering, then medicine, and private universities like the Aziz Premji University (AZU), universities abroad and so on, on merit. They also began climbing mountains and learning music — one all-girls band even played for the Cyberabad Commissionerate during the Republic Day this year.
Word spread and parents began showing up in such large numbers that from 4,000 vacant seats, TSWREIS received more than 1.5 lakh applications for 20,000 seats last year! There are 40,600 seats now available from Classes 5 to 12.
Born to poor Dalit parents in the Alampur village of the Gadwal district, Dr. Kumar saw discrimination at close quarters and is clear that education is the way out of the rut of poverty.
“I wanted to help people like me. I see a generation of students from under-privileged communities studying in hostels, doing well and showing the light to future generations, as Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has sanctioned whatever we sought and more,” he says.
Dr. Kumar looks forward to watching the premiere of Poorna with President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan soon, before the film is released nationwide.