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Frying-pan slot for Sen

Damayanti Sen

Calcutta, Feb. 8: Damayanti Sen, the police officer who hit the headlines when the Park Street rape case was cracked, has been transferred to the hills as deputy inspector-general, Darjeeling range.

The frying-pan assignment carries rewarding opportunities as well as treacherous pitfalls at a time the hills have turned restive following a controversial speech by the chief minister last week. The oneupmanship game since then has led to a call for a bandh in the hills tomorrow — the first such shutdown after Mamata Banerjee assumed power.

The Darjeeling post, created in 1986 at the height of the statehood movement flare-up, has been lying vacant since September 2012 after the then DIG, Anand Kumar, was shifted to Siliguri as police commissioner.

“This is a routine transfer and one shouldn’t read too much between the lines. Besides Damayanti, five other officers have been transferred in today’s order,” said a home department official.

A section of police officers insisted that the chief minister was taking the hills situation seriously and she wanted an efficient officer to take charge. “Our pool of efficient officers is not that large. So, the government had to depend on Sen, whose capabilities have been tried and tested,” a senior officer said.

“She was the first woman detective chief of Calcutta and has tackled law-and-order situations quite effectively as deputy commissioner of police, North,” said another officer. “This transfer is a move to allow her to show her mettle.”

But the circumstances preceding Sen’s earlier transfer made many speculate if the new assignment was a punishment or a reward.

At a media conference last year, Sen’s unhesitating reply in the affirmative to a question if the complainant in the Park Street case was raped had changed the complexion of the controversy. The confirmation had come in the face of insistence by Mamata Banerjee that it was a “sajano ghatana (fabricated incident)”.

Within two months, the 1996-batch IPS officer, who was heading the investigation into the rape case as the city detective chief, was transferred to the Police Training School at Barrackpore as DIG (training). Since then, the Park Street case has not made much headway — and the main accused is still absconding.

Last year, officials had countered suggestions that she was being shunted out by a vengeful government by saying that the officer was being given a relatively less demanding post to take care of her family.

This time, though, no such explanation came till late this evening. “The question is whether the role of DIG (Darjeeling range) is less taxing than that of DIG (training),” said a senior officer.

He said the government was in a win-win situation as far as the transfer was concerned. Credit for success by Sen will be shared by the government for making the right choice while few tears are expected to be shed if she stumbles.

The first person to occupy the hill post, R.K. Handa, was lauded by the then government and he eventually retired as the director-general of police in Sikkim.


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