In his first interview after taking over as Director General of Police, Maharashtra, Satish Mathur spells out his priorities, concerns and plans. He spoke on a range of issues, from welfare plans for the 2.5 lakh personnel to the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) and the police’s role in deradicalisation. Excerpts from the interview:
What are your priorities as the DGP of the state?
Law and order, terrorism, housing for policemen, transparency in the administration to ensure that the standard policies and procedures which have been laid are applied barring exceptions where there is a need to change the SOP at the last minute to help a citizen or deal with the law and order situation and where such a change is needed and justified and is well within the framework of law.
The image of the Maharashtra police is one of being unfriendly. How will you address that issue?
The image of the police has taken a beating and therefore an outreach programme with public has already commenced so that this image is altered. Like a citizen does not hesitate to visit a BEST bill payment center, similarly we want the public not to hesitate to visit a police station with their grievances. Engaging public in policing will help us get rid of the unfriendly tag.
The Maharashtra Government has recently issued a Government Resolution (GR) on its deradicalisation programme. What will be the police’s stake and role?
The deradicalisation programme includes many departments of the State Government. Deradicalisation is more of a social issue than a policing issue. Police is an important stakeholder.
Through our apparatus, we are in a position to identify those who are radicalised and require to be deradicalised. However measures like ensuring that the representation of the community increases in the field of education, sports, cultural activities are undertaken by other departments. Our role is to identify and assist other agencies.
As chief of a 2.5 lakh-strong force, which welfare programme do you want to initiate immediately?
Housing for the constabulary has been an issue close to my heart. I have requested the government to give them liberal loans and increase budget for police housing so that the pendency cases are taken care of. Policemen till the rank of a sub-inspector can avail a loan under the Pradhan Mantri Gruha Awaas Yojana under which they can get loans at an interest rate of 6 per cent per annum. We will commence an awareness drive so that our personnel are aware of such benefits .
What you think about the Naxal threat and how well equipped are we to deal with it?
The police are dominant but there is always a scope for improvement. Right now, the morale of the force is high and we need to continue with the same. For the first time, operations against Naxals have been undertaken by police stations. In the past this was only done by the specialised C-60 commandos or the CRPF but now even the local police stations are carrying out anti-Naxal operations and that is a good trend. While the anti-Naxal operation forces are well equipped, we are expediting a few more procurements.
How do you assess the threat from terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) vis-a-vis Maharashtra?
Maharashtra continues to remain on the hitlist of not just IS but also other terrorist organisations as it houses the financial capital of the country. IS poses a threat to many countries including India.
There has been a spurt in economic and cyber crimes. Do you see it as an area of concern?
In economic offences, the accused tend to take advantage of the poor understanding of the policemen on the subject and use loopholes in our laws to their advantage. We will therefore augment the capabilities of district police by training them in complex subjects of economic and cyber crimes. Also a larger decision on whether to have a dedicated force to deal with such cases needs to be taken.