The truth yet to be told : The Tribune India

Julio Ribeiro

It was the Zoroastrian festival of Navroze, the Parsi New Year. I was at the lunch table with my grand-daughter’s family when my mobile phone rang. It was a journalist, wanting my reaction to the NCP chief’s reference to me in his interaction with the Press in Delhi. I knew not where and why Pawar had met the Press.

Why did Sharad Pawar mention me and in what context? I was more than puzzled. The calls on the mobile did not stop. It was not just the print media; the electronic media was even more persistent. My daughter gathered that the Police Commissioner, who had been shifted out, had accused the state’s Home Minister of demanding a monthly contribution of Rs 100 crore to be collected from liquor bar owners and others who flout rules. This collection was to be made by an officer who had been recently reinstated in service after 17 years of suspension, facing a murder charge which had yet to be adjudicated by a court of law.

It was clear now to the eight diners at the table that Sharad Pawar had suggested that I should be asked to inquire into the police chief’s allegation. The minister was from his party, the NCP, and was his (Pawar’s) nominee in Maharashtra’s Cabinet. I was nonplussed. Pawar had not spoken to me prior to making the suggestion to the Delhi Press, which was present in strength to ascertain his reaction to the allegation.

I refused to get involved. It would have been more appropriate if Sharad Pawar had asked my opinion about the officer before he cleared him for the job. It would have saved him the bother. Moreover, it would not have led to the demoralisation in the ranks of the police that was inevitable when such murky details of the Crime Branch being used to collect monies was so brutally exposed.

The National Police Commission headed by the respected ICS officer, Dharma Vira, had predicted the politicisation of the police by the misuse of the power of appointments and transfers. Over the years, this prediction has not only been proved right, but the extent of the malaise has surpassed the calculation of the commission’s members, two of whom — KF Rustamji and NS Saksena of the colonial-era India police — were veritable intellectual giants.

The deliberate choice of the wrong persons to fill cutting-edge appointments at the senior-most levels is the greatest obstacle to good governance in a very sensitive apparatus like the police. The safety and security of people’s lives and property should be the prime consideration when appointments are made at that level. If the accent is not on the good of the public, but the amassing of wealth to keep the party and its leaders in clover, then the recipe for disaster is writ in bold letters.

I confess that I had erred in my surmise that Sharad Pawar, a shrewd politician who kept a tag on every IAS and IPS officer in the state, would not give in to pressures being piled on him to make the wrong choice of a Commissioner. Strait-laced citizens, besides disgruntled police officers, had regaled me, a retired cop, about the propensities of the candidates. If I had the faintest suspicion that he was about to make a wrong choice, I would have quietly spoken to Supriya Sule, the MP who had the ears of her father. I have a healthy regard for her strength of character.

Only officers of impeccable integrity should be considered for top jobs. If those entrusted with the choices do not follow this cardinal principle, it will be obvious that they do not care for public good. Such politicians should not be elected next time out.

I was aware of the Home Minister’s penchant for cash for transfers. Too many officers and men who had paid were floating their stories! Sharad Pawar may have thought it difficult to extricate his man from damnation, but if the minister’s career was doomed, the Commissioner, without whose help he could not have enjoyed a free run, should also follow his political boss into inferno. I guess this was his trend of thought.

But I do not look at the problem in terms of individuals. It is much deeper and more serious. The criminal-police-politician nexus needs to be broken. The allegation levelled by Param Bir Singh against Anil Deshmukh has fallen into Amit Shah’s lap. He should grasp it with both hands if he has the overall good of the people of India at heart as he seems to imply in his memorable Op-ed page article published in a leading English newspaper a month or so ago.

At present, the NIA and the CBI, both reporting to the Union Home Minister, are hell-bent on cornering Deshmukh. They have shown no interest in destroying the evil nexus. If the people are to benefit, the nexus between venal politicians and evil police officers must end.

The Bombay High Court has caught on to the game. It has asked the CBI to ascertain how Sachin Vaze, the inspector who was in charge of illegal collections from bar owners and cricket bookies, was reinstated in service against all canons of law, rules and morality. From that starting point, the whole sordid story of how politicians patronise willing cops for mutual benefit will be exposed!

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