There are some aspects of “L’affaire Paraskar” that must be understood and digested by the people of Mumbai. They have heard of police reforms and they have understood those reforms to mean increased manpower, better training, better equipment, polite behaviour and professional competence in tackling crime and criminals. Everyone wants the police to be more polite in their dealings with the people and more professional in their work, but people must realise that this is possible only if there is an honest and competent leadership that is installed at the cutting edge and at the very top. These leaders should be allowed operational freedom to direct their men in the daily performance of the tasks entrusted to them.
L’affaire Paraskar should open people’s eyes to the fact that the police force that is supposed to serve them is spending precious time on private pursuits and, that too, by misusing the authority vested in them by virtue of their office. Sunil Paraskar could allegedly dare to indulge in what Mulayam Singh Yadav has called the “boy’s game” because the fear of reprisals for bad behaviour is no more present in a policeman’s mind. Every police officer has a pipeline to some politician or other. And it is the politician and not the professional police leader who has the last word in disciplinary matters!
Paraskar, I learned, had many godfathers. He hardly ever moved out of Mumbai city during his entire career. His one posting to Nagpur was short. His Herculean efforts to return to Mumbai quickly succeeded. In the past, no officer was inducted into the city unless he went through the grind in the districts. This writer did 15 years in different districts like Broach, Kolhapur, Nasik, Jalgaon, Parbhani, Nanded, Sholapur and Pune before he was appointed deputy commissioner in Mumbai. After four years in the city, he was sent on a six-year deputation to Hyderabad and Delhi before returning.
The system of rotating postings is meant to avoid the accumulation of vested interests. The government is aware of these pitfalls and makes the correct noises from time to time but never acts because of pressures exerted by sundry politicians on their minister friends. Most police officers have perfected the art of cultivating the correct patrons to ensure their continued stay in places of their choice.
To neutralise this process of politicisation of the force, where policemen and politicians keep scratching each other’s backs, the National Police Commission of 1979 had recommended certain measures to ensure that postings and transfers were not left in the hands of politicians alone. This essential reform has been rejected by all political parties. Each party wants to control the police for its own political advantage at the cost of the rule of law. Unless the power to post and transfer is removed from the hands of the politicians, there is no chance of any improvement in the delivery system and no silver lining to be seen for the common man.
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Another fact that is not known to the general public, but closely connected to this whole gamut of patronage politics, is the direct recruitment to the senior ranks through the State Public Service Commission and not through the Union Public Service Commission, which recruits IAS and IPS officers. These state recruits, whose number is increasing alarmingly, are absorbed into the IPS after eight or 10 years.
Because there are so many of them to be accommodated when they are due for promotion, new not-required, nondescript posts are created at senior levels. Many senior posts have no job content and constitute a burden on the exchequer. What is worse is the bitterness and infighting that arises because each wants what they themselves call “creamy postings”, where illegal money can be made.
Only cadre officers, that is, those who have been absorbed into the IPS, can hold certain jobs like superintendents of police in the districts. This rule is being widely disregarded in order to accommodate the state officers who are very often related to politicians by blood or through community linkages. This results in significant distortions in the way the force is run and administered.
In the old days, only one or two officers were recruited directly as deputy superintendents of police every year. Their calibre was very high. Now the state has been known to absorb even 50 or more in a year, making a mockery of the process of cadre management. The politicians will have distributed patronage thereby, but the people ultimately suffer. L’affaire Paraskar should open their eyes.
The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab, and is a former Indian ambassador to Romania.