In April 2013, when one Shridevi Goel, an officer in the rank of Director General of Police (DGP), retired, her vacancy was to be filled on promotion by the senior most Additional DG who happened to be Dr Satyapal Singh, then Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. The government deliberately neglected to issue the order of promotion, probably because Dr Satyapal Singh brought pressure on the government to continue him in the prestigious appointment which he preferred to that of DG Home Guards.
A couple of months later, another DGP-rank post fell vacant and was kept vacant for similar reasons. By delaying the two promotions a whole chain of promotions was held up affecting not only two officers of DG rank but four in the Additional DG rank, eight in the IG rank and seven in that of DIG. Their promotions were delayed by more than six months, causing much heartburn among senior officers.
Down the line, the promotions of twenty-nine Deputy SPs to the rank of Additional SPs were delayed for more than a year. By postponing these promotions, the government kept a number of district SPs in a state of suspense. Many had completed their tenure and were anxiously waiting for their new postings.
People will remember the two girls who were arrested for posting an innocuous message on Facebook after the death of Balasaheb Thackeray. The SP of Thane (Rural) was suspended. The DCP of Thane city was ordered to hold the additional charge of Thane (Rural) till a new SP was appointed. Nearly a year went by before the post was filled!
Three outstanding officers who returned from deputation to the Central government were kept waiting for eight months though there were vacancies to accommodate them! The reason for this inexcusable delay was never specified! All this lack of governance is hurting the morale, the discipline and the performance of the Maharashtra Police. It's not surprising, therefore, that Maharashtra's IPS officers are up in arms. Their Association placed its grievances before state home minister RR Patil, but he demurred.
The dissatisfaction is much more acute than the home minister is prepared to believe. Many good middle-level officers are prepared to quit if they get suitable openings in the corporate world. If the attrition rate rises dramatically, it would be a disaster. These officers are our only hope. They are capable of dispensing justice to aggrieved citizens, whereas those who will remain are predominantly the ones who look after their own personal interests.
It is critical for Patil to ascertain the reasons for the frustration. Actually, these reasons are not difficult to discern. The main one is that the command and control of the Force has slipped out of the hands of the police leadership into the hands of the minister and his Babus in Mantralaya. Every police officer, right down to the lowest constable, has a pipeline to some politician or the other making adherence to rules difficult!
If the DGP or the Commissioner make valiant attempts to enhance performance, they are frustrated at every turn by a political class for whom such concepts as discipline and loyalty are unintelligible! The politicians want to run the Force! It makes their existence more interesting though the public will not be amused.
The second reason for the discord is the arbitrary manner in which the ministry appoints and transfers IPS officers. Selected ones, including some who have attained notoriety for corrupt dealings, monopolise cutting-edge posts. Some others manage to hover around Mumbai or cities like Pune or Nagpur for years together. Those without godfathers, even if they are competent and honest, are forgotten. The result is predictable.
The third reason for the current discontent is the style of functioning of the home minister himself. He contacts the police inspectors in charge of police stations himself keeping their own seniors out of the loop. By bypassing the hierarchy, he has made the senior echelons partly redundant.
The Supreme Court's directives in Prakash Singh's writ petition on Police Reforms has perturbed the minister considerably. He has attempted to circumvent the spirit of the directives by issuing an Ordinance that pays only lip service to the directives while blatantly circumventing them! In fact, the Ordinance attempts to usurp more powers to transfer and post in the hands of the politicians, a factor that is the real cause for the steady deterioration in policing standards.
(The author is former commissioner of police, Mumbai and ex-DGP, Punjab)