Mamata keeps word: Cops jolted out of  ‘golden crown dream’

Those who grew a spine were housed in Gulags or "corrective labour camps" in the Soviet Union. China sent them "Down the Countryside" during the Cultural Revolution. North Korea falls back on penal labour colonies.

By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 22.05.16


Calcutta police officers in plainclothes accost a Trinamul agent in Beleghata while responding to a call reporting threats during voting on April 21 

Calcutta, May 21: Those who grew a spine were housed in Gulags or "corrective labour camps" in the Soviet Union. China sent them "Down the Countryside" during the Cultural Revolution. North Korea falls back on penal labour colonies.

In Bengal, the training wing of the police department appears to be the flavour of the curative season.

That's where Mamata Banerjee has sent Soumen Mitra, the IPS officer under whose leadership the city force earned widespread praise for cracking down on poll bullies, after ending his 38-day innings as Calcutta police commissioner.

Rajeev Kumar, who had been transferred on the orders of the Election Commission following allegations of bias, was today brought back to the helm of Calcutta police in one of the first official decisions taken after the elections.

Kumar's reinstatement and Mitra's shunting were foregone conclusions since the spectacular comeback by Mamata, who had issued ill-concealed and dire warnings on the campaign trail.

" Ponero dineyr jonyo keu daityo peye shey jodi bhabey amay aamar jiboner swapna, aamake swarna mukut poriye debe keu, sheta shobcheye bhul (If someone is given a responsibility for just 15 days and starts thinking their life's dream of wearing a gold crown will be fulfilled, that is the biggest mistake)," Mamata had told an election rally at Chandipur in East Midnapore on May 1, a day after the south Calcutta vote that was monitored by Mitra's team.

What was not clear was the bay where Mitra would be quarantined after being diagnosed with the rare affliction of having a straight spine.

The destination was announced this afternoon. Mitra will now be additional director-general (training) and stationed in Salt Lake.

His new assignment as ADG (training) will involve drawing up and implementing training modules for officers across ranks in the state.

Mitra was additional director-general, CID, before he became Calcutta police commissioner. He was the second-in-command in the state CID - a specialised wing to investigate crimes across the state.

Training is a noble assignment but most officers consider the post a grazing ground for "non-performers" - a label that does not sit easy on Mitra who, by all available evidence, let the police perform like never before on the polling days in Calcutta.

The training wing should ring a bell among Calcutta police watchers. This is the same section where Damayanti Sen, then joint commissioner and now IG, found herself in 2012 after she cracked the Park Street rape case, which the chief minister had initially described as a " sajano ghatana (fabricated incident)". Sen was then shifted to the training wing in Barrackpore as DIG.

However, when Ranjit Pachnanda was shunted out as police commissioner in 2013 for daring to start a murder case against a Trinamul leader, he was sent to the armed police as ADG.

Sources at Nabanna said instructions had been conveyed that Mitra had to be shifted to a post that had no law-and-order responsibilities.

Mitra had earned the wrath of the Trinamul leadership particularly because he shut down local clubs on the eve of polling to prevent unlawful assembly.

The clampdown, following the recovery of crude bombs from at least two clubs patronised by Trinamul supporters, including one in Mamata's seat Bhowanipore, had prompted the chief minister to unleash a scathing attack.

"I had elections yesterday. But I saw to my utter surprise that the police had locked up an important club in my locality. This club was founded before Independence," Mamata had said on May 1.

Mitra had also allegedly shown a minister the rulebook when he had visited the commissioner's chamber at Lalbazar after the first round of polls in Calcutta.

The minister had told Mitra that there should be "no excesses" by the police during the remaining phases. But, sources had said, Mitra had shown the minister the Election Commission's manual and added that he had no option but to act according to the rulebook.

An IAS officer said: "She (Mamata) was indifferent to Mitra on May 19 when he paid a courtesy visit at Kalighat. She told one of her confidants that she did not wish to take the salute from Mitra at her swearing-in next Friday...."

As preparations for the swearing-in on Red Road has to be started by Sunday, Kumar was brought back to the post today, an official said.

Mitra left Lalbazar around an hour before the order was issued this evening. Kumar took charge later in the evening.

Sources said that most of the 67 officers who had been transferred by the Election Commission would be reinstated soon, probably before the swearing-in on May 27.

According to an official at Nabanna, the next "big posting" was likely to be that of former Calcutta police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha as the new state director-general of police.

"G.M.P. Reddy will retire this month. Surajit Kar Purkayastha is far ahead in the race," the official said.

An Election Commission official conceded that now that results had been published, there was "nothing the poll panel can do".

"All officials who were removed in 2014 and this time will be on the commission's list for removal from election-related duty in 2019. But till then, there is no provision under the current law of the land for the commission to intervene," an official said.