Jeroo Mango, daughter of the first Indian police commissioner of Mumbai, came up to me at a dinner party and asked how her father was chosen for the job. Ever since the government delayed its decision to announce a successor to Satyapal Singh, many others, besides Jeroo, developed an interest in the process.
Two appointments in the city are of vital importance to the daily life of Mumbai’s citizens: that of the police commissioner and the municipal commissioner. These two officers should be men of utmost integrity and competence. They should be able to dispense justice to the suffering citizenry, particularly the poor and dispossessed, those who have no voice otherwise. Their goal should be to make the quality of life of citizens much better than it was before. Citizens should not be left to the mercies of police and municipal personnel whose one-point programme is to advertise their own importance.
Soon after Independence, the politicians who assumed power respected and leaned on the higher bureaucracy and senior police officials to dispense justice to the people. This was generally achieved by an unwritten law that allowed departmental superiors to control their own subordinates and place them in positions where they would perform to the satisfaction of the people. Politicians monitored police performance and questioned the chiefs if things went awry. Over time, police chiefs have lost their authority to post and transfer, which has been now appropriated by politicians. This has caused great distortion in the dispensation of justice and has resulted in a loss of faith on the part of the general public.
In the days after I joined the IPS, the inspector general of police (there was no DGP then) had complete authority. He was the father of the force. The home secretary never questioned his judgement and the minister too concurred. Appointments went through smoothly. And no officer approached politicians for favours. Alas, things have changed dramatically over time. Lobbying for assignments has turned into a curse. Politicians have turned the process into an industry.
How was I appointed 32 years ago? I was the junior-most among the six special IGs. I had no inkling I was to be the commissioner of police. The political leadership chose me from the zone of consideration because it felt that I was best suited to tackle the policemen’s union, which was causing concern.
I personally feel that the choice of Rakesh Maria as the new commissioner of police is the correct one. It is unfortunate that as deserving and good an officer as Javed Ahmed missed the bus. He could have been appointed in April last year when Sridevi Goel retired. But the government dithered, probably because Satyapal Singh, the then incumbent, was not interested continued…