Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda’s exit from the Calcutta police commissioner’s chamber on Valentine’s Day was as dramatic as his entry was in March 2011.
Pachnanda, a 1983-batch IPS officer had been picked over at least four seniors by the chief election commission in the run-up to the Assembly polls of 2011 for being an “efficient officer”.
His journey from the tough deputy commissioner who allegedly “bit” Opposition firebrand Mamata Banerjee while evicting a sit-in-demonstration at Bedi Bhavan to becoming the boss of Lalbazar has been a long and eventful one.
But nothing can top his departure from the top post.
“His sacking for daring to stand up for the force against the ruling party has allowed him to leave as a martyr and a hero,” said a senior officer.
Pachnanda, who hails from Punjab, was known for being “supremely disciplined” and as a commissioner he was a “workaholic”.
“He has been one of the most disciplined officers I have come across in my career. As commissioner, he would be in office six-and-a-half days a week and hardly took a day off in these two years,” said an officer in Lalbazar.
An economics graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and armed with a gold medal in law, the armyman’s son born in 1958 chose the uniform over law. His son and daughter, though, have zeroed in on the legal profession.
A gracious host, Pachnanda counts a cross-section of people from the bureaucracy to the arts as friends. He is a voracious reader and has a soft spot for chocolates, said a colleague.
His bittersweet term as the first commissioner in Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal will be defined by two tragic incidents — the Park Street rape case, where his officer Damayanti Sen went against the chief minister’s “sajano ghatana” line, and now the Garden Reach murder of a sub-inspector. In between, he earned the somewhat dubious reputation of being “less an officer and more a gentleman” when it came to the ruling party’s constant interference in police affairs. “His problem was that he did not take a firm stand against the political bosses even when he knew they were wrong,” said a senior officer.
That changed on the afternoon of February 12. “Despite tremendous pressure from the Trinamul leadership, we had clear instructions from him to arrest anyone irrespective of party colour. We will always respect him for that,” said a member of the probe team.
But for Pachnanda, there will be no escaping Mamata in his new posting: the director of security.
All we can say is: good luck, RKP!