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Why this Home Team NS man volunteered to patrol MRT stations on New Year’s Eve

ASP (NS) Lalithkumar Seenivasan believes in giving back to the community by safeguarding public security during his ICT deployments.

ASP (NS) Lalithkumar Seenivasan believes in giving back to the community by safeguarding public security during his ICT deployments.

PHOTOS: ASP (NS) LALITHKUMAR SEENIVASAN

TEXT: ALYWIN CHEW

While his friends and family made merry, ASP (NS) Lalithkumar Seenivasan spent last New Year’s Eve patrolling Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations with his colleagues from the Public Transport Security Command (TransCom). Remarkably, this was not a compulsory In-camp Training (ICT) deployment — he had volunteered to serve the nation on the public holiday.

In fact, Lalithkumar — who had since March 2023 been working as a scientific research assistant in Hong Kong while waiting for his PhD Oral Defense at the National University of Singapore (NUS) — was excused from reservist duties at the time. While in Hong Kong however, he accepted an offer to take up a postdoctoral position in the United States (US).

Before assuming this new role in February 2024, he returned to Singapore to be with his family in late November. As he had plenty of time to spend with family and friends before proceeding to the US, he also thought about giving back to the community through reservist duties. Hence, he contacted his TransCom commanders and expressed his willingness to be deployed.

ALL FOR THE COMMON GOOD

Another reason he cites for volunteering during his downtime is the strong camaraderie he and his reservist mates share. They have known one another since serving National Service (NS) together about a decade ago.

Lalithkumar is a former Key Appointment Holder/Responsibility Appointment Holder (KAHRAH). This means that as part of his reservist, he committed to spending a few days each month collaborating on security deployment plans for major events like the National Day Parade, instead of a single ICT call-up that lasts several weeks. “I really like planning because it allows me to create a greater impact; the decisions we make affect the masses,” he says. “I guess you could say I’ve always been a ‘big picture’ sort of guy.”

That desire to help others is also why he is pursuing a career that involves artificial intelligence (AI) and surgical robotics. He explains that while doctors get to save lives, science and medical research have the potential to create innovations that complement the traditional medical treatment. As a biomedical researcher, Lalithkumar creates AI models that could one day guide intelligent surgical devices to make decisions in real time.

PUBLIC SAFETY 101

As a methodical planner, Lalithkumar particularly appreciates the importance of crowd control, of which TransCom officers play a key role. He cautions that lives can be lost when the flow of human traffic is not managed, such as in the case of Seoul’s deadly 2022 stampede that claimed the lives of 159 Halloween revellers.

Other responsibilities of TransCom officers include identifying unattended bags and suspicious behaviour. What qualifies as the latter? Lalithkumar clarifies that while taking photos inside MRT stations doesn’t constitute a crime, aiming your phone at CCTV cameras could land you in hot water because it may seem like you are casing the place for nefarious purposes.

Another improper use of phone cameras that TransCom officers always look out for is the taking of upskirt photos. In such cases, he says the public can also play a role in deterring crime. “It’s almost second nature to use the phone while on the escalator or waiting for the train to arrive, but try to take some time away from the screen to scan your surroundings and be aware of what’s happening,” he urges. “And if you do notice something out of the ordinary, like an unattended bag, don’t hesitate to alert the authorities. It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

Looking ahead, Lalithkumar expects to pursue a professorship overseas after completing his postdoctoral tenure in the US. But he also wants to return to Singapore for short trips to visit his loved ones.

And just like before, he will be making himself available for ICT deployments. “I want to give back to the community because I’m grateful to Singapore for giving me the opportunities to pursue my passions,” he explains.

“I was not born here but I’ve never faced discrimination. I have a level playing field that allows me to achieve whatever I aspire to as long as I work hard.

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