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Race against time to remove top cop

Calcutta, Jan. 24: Nabanna bustled with activity from afternoon to late in the night on a holiday as senior police officers set in motion the process to transfer Birbhum police chief C. Sudhakar on the order of the chief minister, officials said.

According to senior officials at Nabanna, Mamata Banerjee called up director-general of police G.M.P. Reddy around 5.30pm yesterday and asked him to immediately issue the transfer order of Sudhakar, apparently because he had failed to play a proactive role in the Birbhum gang-rape case.

“The chief minister was furious. She wanted the Birbhum police superintendent to be transferred immediately. She made it clear that the order must be issued within a few hours,” a senior official said.

Ten minutes after speaking to Mamata, Reddy called up home secretary Basudeb Banerjee and briefed him about the chief minister’s order.

“Several formalities are involved in the transfer of an IPS officer. To add to that, yesterday was a holiday in government offices (because of Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday). The DGP reached Nabanna at 6.30pm. All officers in the home department’s IPS cell, which issues transfer orders, reached by 7pm,” the official said.

Soon after DGP Reddy, also the head of the police establishment board, arrived, the other three members were called. The board decides on which officers to be transferred and the procedure.

After it was learnt that the three members — R.K. Pachnanda, Anil Kumar and Raj Kanojia — would not be able to reach Nabanna immediately, they were told to attend the meeting through teleconference.

“At the half-an-hour meeting, it was decided that a few more police superintendents would be shifted so that it appeared that routine transfers were being done,” another official said.

Although the chief minister wanted Kunal Aggarwal, the Darjeeling police chief, to take over as the Birbhum SP, she was called up and told that he should not be sent to a district far away from the hills as he had been handling law and order in the region for the past four years.

“Aggarwal’s transfer was unavoidable as all officers who have spent at least three years in the same post in Bengal and will be involved in the Lok Sabha election process will have to be shifted before February 15. After the chief minister agreed, Aggarwal was transferred to Jalpaiguri,” the official said.

Soon after the board meeting ended at 8.30pm, Mamata called the DGP and asked if the transfer order had been issued.

“The order was sent for typing at 9.30pm and was issued at 10.30pm by R. Sivakumar, the inspector-general of the IPS cell. Sudhakar was put on compulsory waiting and told to report at Nabanna at 2pm today, which he did,” the official said.

According to the transfer order, the officers were shifted “in the interest of public service”.

A home department official said the chief minister was “furious” at the police for coming to know about the alleged gangrape after the girl lodged an FIR. “She said the police should get to know about such incidents through their intelligence network,” a home department official said.