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Mumbai’s consensus cop seeks free hand

Mumbai, Nov. 19: The police commissioner has been forced out on a “leave”; 11 officers under him are facing trial for links with stamp paper scam mastermind Abdul Karim Telgi — Mumbai police is an embattled force today.

Enter Parvinder Singh Pasricha, the new police chief. Armed with a “consensus certificate” from factions in the Democratic Front government, he believes he is in a position to steady the police department’s rocking boat. For that, he hopes to be given a “free hand” to deal with things.

Though there were four candidates in the reckoning, chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde took care that Pasricha’s appointment was not controversial. No one else was considered simply because Pasricha — a PhD in traffic management systems — is the state’s seniormost police officer.

Shinde was especially wary this time in view of a public spat between him and his deputy, Chhagan Bhujbal, over S.M. Shangari’s appointment as Maharashtra’s director-general of police.

Pasricha emphasised that he was the consensus candidate of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Shinde and Bhujbal, but also underlined what he was up against. “It is a huge responsibility,” the 1970 batch IPS officer said. “I will try to get things in order.”

In a reflection of the unprecedented turn of events, he took charge this morning not from outgoing chief Ranjit Singh Sharma but from acting police chief Satyapal Singh, a joint commissioner and many years his junior.

Sharma, indicted by a special investigation team for his alleged links with Telgi, is on a 16-day leave till November 30, the day he retires from service. Following the investigation team’s report on him, the government had stopped Sharma’s promotion as director-general.

Sources said Sharma would end his leave and go straight into retirement. “After the report on him, there was never any doubt that Sharma would not remain in a position to resume his duties,” a senior IPS officer said.

Pasricha was philosophical while articulating his immediate objectives. “Though I am prepared to take a scalpel and remove the rot from the (police) system, we will have to stand in front of a mirror and be prepared for a cosmetic surgery to improve our image,” he said. “Of course, no one should expect miracles also.”

Buried under the debris of Mumbai’s police’s shattered reputation, the top cop said “it (the reforms) will be a slow process like a homoeopathy treatment. But more than anything else there is a great need for introspection and a greater need to root out groupism from the police force”.

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