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Of heroes and heroin

The Saji Mohan saga is shameful. But it also offers an opportunity for the police to cleanse itself

Written by Abhinav Kumar | January 31, 2009 1:34:31 am

If he had a grave,Sardar Patel,the father of the All India Services who threatened to resign when his vision of the civil services was challenged in the Constituent Assembly,would be spinning in it by now. He and our other founding fathers,by including constitutional provisions safeguarding the position of the civil services,had expressed a hope that the virtues for which the ICS and the IP were justly famous — intellect,integrity,impartiality and industry — would in their new avatars as the IAS and the IPS,be put to the service of our nascent nation. In the 60th year of our republic,seeing unfold the sordid saga of Saji Mohan — an IPS officer of the 1995 batch who stands accused of running an international drug trafficking ring — it is difficult to appreciate the faith placed by Sardar Patel and his peers in the All India Services.

What makes a policeman? Whether we like it or not,we are supposed to be braver,more patient,more enduring,more impartial and more upright than your average man on the street. We are also held to a different standard of accountability than other public services. But for a while now our citizens and the media have believed that the rot in the police is far greater than it is made out to be and this recent episode would have confirmed their worst suspicions.

The alleged activities of Saji Mohan are sufficient to make every proud police officer hang his or her head in shame. In recent times we have had IPS officers arrested for murder,fraud,extortion,corruption,dowry death and even rape. Now drug trafficking is also included as a new category in our hall of shame. The credibility of the police in general and the IPS in particular — that had captured the imagination of a grateful nation in the wake of our sacrifices during Mumbai 26/11 — has taken a serious blow. This narrative is woven into the wider tale of the general corruption,incompetence and insensitivity that characterises the entire spectrum of our public services. It seems that it is in our cultural DNA to do all we can to exploit public office for private profit.

The arrest of Saji Mohan by police officers,while writing another shameful episode in the history of the IPS ironically also holds out a ray of hope. It is that we in the police will make an honest effort to identify and weed out the black sheep amongst us and in doing so we will try and hold the police to a somewhat higher standard of accountability. Corrupt MPs may hide behind parliamentary privilege,corrupt judges may be shielded by impossible contempt laws and impeachment provisions,corrupt bureaucrats may get political and legal protection through denial of prosecution sanction and the single directive,but we will refuse to let our profession be dragged down to the least common denominator of the rampant abuse of public trust and legal authority. To that extent it is a matter of pride that the activities of a rogue police officer were exposed by other police officers who were not prepared to look the other way even if it meant in the short run bringing a bad name to their uniform. This cleaning of the Augean stables is indeed painful but it is a vital part of constantly renewing our covenant with the people of India.

In a wider sense this episode is not merely a disgraceful reminder of the deep rooted nature of police corruption in India. It shows the wider moral vacuum that underpins all our institutions and elites. The guardians of India of Patel’s imagination,have turned out to be vampires with an insatiable appetite for the blood and toil of India’s poor and disadvantaged millions. One can only hope that this recent incident will jolt them into becoming a little less forgiving of the transgressions of their public servants. This will by no means be the last time an IPS officer will betray the ideals of our service. No doubt it leaves us all looking a lot smaller before the citizens we were sworn to serve and protect. But if it also results in greater public pressure to discharge our duties as envisaged by our founding fathers,then there may be some redemption in this tale of a hero allegedly fallen to the lure of heroin.

The writer is an IPS officer. These are his personal views

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