The National Centre for Divyang Empowerment in Hyderabad has brought in domain experts to train personnel in AI, cyber security and para sports. CRPF personnel who have lost limbs are being trained to be 'cyber warriors' at NCDE, Telangana

New Delhi: The afternoon of 13 April 2014 is still fresh in the mind of inspector Ajay Kumar (31) of the Central Reserve Police Force.

He was on duty for the general elections, conducting a search operation just two days before voting day in Bihar’s Aurangabad, when an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up, leaving him unconscious. Two days later, he came to, only to find that he had lost his left leg below the knee.

“I thought it was the end of my life, because I was a soldier, fighter, cyclist, and I could not imagine myself on crutches,” Kumar said. “Soon, however, I realised that it really was not the end, and could be a new beginning.”

Now, Kumar is one of the 200 ‘divyang warriors’ training to become a cyber expert and a para sports cyclist at the National Centre for Divyang Empowerment (NCDE) in Ranga Reddy district near Telangana’s capital Hyderabad.

The institute has been set up to train personnel who have lost limbs on duty — fighting terrorists; in encounters, operations and accidents — in information and technology, and make them “cyber warriors”.

“CRPF is the largest armed force of 3.25 lakh warriors, and has earned over 2,000 gallantry decorations. In achieving this, a large number of warriors suffered loss of limbs. And this initiative is for them,” said A.P. Maheshwari, director general of CRPF.

“The NCDE is to develop internal security warriors as cyber warriors so that they can fit well into the emerging domains of the organisation,” the chief explained.

Industrialists, Professionals Roped In

The NCDE, which has roped in several domain experts to train personnel in cyber skills, artificial intelligence tools, cyber security and warfare started classes in the last week of November.

According to a senior CRPF officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, after training, the services of the personnel will also be used within the organisation to train more people in the domains of data analysis, artificial intelligence and video analytics.

Training comprises various programmes — initial training for two months, followed by a one-month mid-level course, and then an advance course for specialisation in AI and even physical training.

Currently, the 200 personnel, including Kumar, are being given the two months’ initial training.

“BITS Pilani is giving free services and assistance for this initiative. Moreover, many industrialists have signed up for the programme, and the soldiers are getting industrial training on how corporates function,” the officer said.

“The purpose is to expose them to this field and make them understand how policy work is done. Hyderabad was chosen as the location because it is the ‘cyber city’,” he detailed.

Kumar, who plans to enrol in the mid-level course too, said: “It is great exposure. I was zero at computers, and honestly, did not have much interest in the training. But now, with such professionals around, I have developed interest and learnt a lot, and I see myself as a cyber expert in the years to come.”

There are also audio visual labs to develop training material, which the current batch is creating for the benefit of future batches, the anonymous officer added.

Para Sports

Apart from cyber training, the NCDE also has 10 para sports facilities to keep the personnel fit.

“It is important to ensure that the personnel remain fit. So, we have also arranged a facility for para sports. They can even choose to take advanced training in a particular sport. We have also hired professionals to train them,” the officer said.

“Besides providing for the fitness and wellness of the ‘divyangs’, the NCDE also aims to develop them for para sports and nurture them so as to reach the international level as global champions,” DG Maheshwari added.

This has made Kumar ecstatic, because he never gave up cycling even after his accident, and is now training for international competitions.

“Post my accident, I was given a prosthetic foot. Initially, I was very reluctant to move around, but one gets used to it. I again took to cycling after I was motivated by my seniors and made my own professional cycle,” he said.

“In 2016, I cycled from Attari to Delhi. Then in 2017, I went to Bahrain for a para cycling event. In 2018, I went from Shimla to Manali through the Rohtang Pass. But with this training, I am now getting professional help and would definitely want to be a part of para sports internationally,” Kumar added.

Other CAPFs Can Do It Too

Although this initiative is currently only for CRPF personnel, the facility is soon expected to be extended to other Central Armed Police Forces as well.

“The idea is to extend this training, including for para sports, to all CAPFs, and also open it to divyang children. Talks are on with the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the anonymous officer said.

“The aim is that each of these soldiers should go back with some skill set from this institute, and we will make sure that we achieve it,” he added.