For the last 15 days, the subject of postings and transfers in the state police force was hogging the headlines in the media, regardless of the fact that such things hardly matter to the common man, the soul of our democratic system.
For him, every person in this uniformed service is identical. Laymen rarely find an opportunity to meet senior police officers, and the higher-ups rarely show any interest in building a rapport with them.
For a layman, just two policemen are important - the senior police inspector of the local police station and the beat marshals who conduct round-the-clock visits. Even a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) is far away from his daily life; leave alone a CP or an additional CP.
But, high-octane drama was on over the appointment of the new police chief after Satyapal Singh decided to throw his hat in the political ring. The debate on the successor was so intense that many people have won bets for correctly guessing Rakesh Maria as the choice for the top job.
Since there were many contenders to head the city’s police, the battle became intense. A battle of nerves was fought through the media and politics as well. Reports appeared that one or two officials were ready to resign if the post was denied to them.
In the true sense, appointment to senior positions is of more importance to people from politics, as Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May this year, followed by the Vidhan Sabha polls in October. During election time, the cooperation of the police force is essential, as it is directly connected with electioneering.
Following them are the people from the police force, as appointment of a particular person is a signal to them - it is directly connected with their performance and duties. The last section is most important, and it is people engaged in running a parallel world where no rule or law exists, people who believe in getting things done by hook or by crook.
The media comes last in this chain - they mostly need a good source to generate news. Reports appeared how one official was unfit and his competitor was therefore the best man for the job. Threats of resignation were also delivered through this medium.
But, a debate rarely takes place on how effective a particular CP is, and how he can keep the city under control. The crime scene in Mumbai metropolis is far from satisfactory, and only time will tell how Maria is going to control it.
Today, the average Mumbaikar is concerned over the rise in chain snatching, mobile thefts and break-ins. In the last many years, no police commissioner could ensure effective control on rising crime rate, atrocities against women, smooth traffic on roads or proliferation of illegal slums.
No one prefers to debate whether a metropolitan city like Mumbai, with approximately 1.25 crore people and a high level of security threat due to its status as the business capital of India, needs more than one police commissionerate.
It’s very difficult to recollect when a city chief participated in night patrolling or conducted surprise visits to police stations known for highly sensitive localities. But, the most important factor that delayed the appointment was the political war between the Congress, whose CM heads the government and NCP under whose control is the home department.
Maria’s appointment was not a surprise for one who knows how this government works. Home Minister R R Patil and his party were keen on Maria. They were not ready to consider Javed Ahmed and Vijay Kamble, who had the backing of Congress leaders.
The NCP was quite adamant on having its say in the appointment of senior police officials, as the Congress CM Prithviraj Chavan rarely considers names suggested by them for the postings of IAS officials to departmental secretaries.
It was a forgone conclusion that NCP would have the man of its choice as CP, since the party was sulking over the appointment of Gulabrao Pol as CP, Pune. Thanks to the Congress’ backing, Pol is still untouched despite his performance being critically assessed in the aftermath of the gruesome murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar.
A fact is that public perception is the last thing that assumes any importance while appointing police officials. This is due to politicisation of the police force that should be public friendly rather than politician friendly. Today, we can only wish Maria, who is expected to head city police till January 2017, the best of luck.
- The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY