Shunting ATS officers a bad idea

The transfer of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Himanshu Roy in just one year shows the lack of seriousness on part of the state government in tackling terrorism.

Roy has been replaced by joint commissioner of police (administration) Vivek Phansalkar, a 1989-batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre who has hardly served in any important posts in Mumbai. He will have to start from scratch for handling terrorism.

From the time it was formed in 2004, the Maharashtra ATS has seen four chiefs from the state cadre.

The IPS officers who have served as ATS chiefs in the past include KP Raghuvanshi, late joint CP Hemant Karkare (who was killed in the 26/11 attacks) and Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria.

Before such irrational postings, the government should understand that such short-term appointments of ATS chiefs will hamper the body’s functioning. By the time the officer takes charge and learns the functioning of the ATS, the government is ready with his transfer orders. The fate of lower ranking officers handling sensitive cases of bomb blasts is also not different. This is one of the prime reasons why the ATS has been lacking in intelligence.

The squad that is handling at least dozens of bomb blast cases till now has never received any special attention from the government. Lack of support from Central agencies like the IB, RAW and Delhi police has added to the existing problems.

Also, police officers don’t want to work in the ATS, which is considered a punishment posting. There are several officers who have been eagerly awaiting their transfers out of ATS.

Rather than posting officers who are least interested or ones who are less experienced, it is important for the government to do some basic soul-searching if it wants the entity to effectively tackle terrorism.

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