The days are growing darker

An officer of the Indian Police Service, Siddharth M. Jain, shot in the air with his official revolver to celebrate his transfer from Katihar. A senior superintendent of police, Ashish Bharti, displayed his dancing skills in another district. Worse, stacks of currency notes, to the tune of about Rs 1.6 crore, tumbled out of the lockers of the former senior SP, Vivek Kumar, during the raids conducted by the Special Vigilance Unit. These are a series of events that have left the people and the higher-ups in the police force worried. Questions are being asked. Are these the kind of IPS officers coming to the state to control law and order — officers who display a complete lack of self-discipline? Where did the stacks of money come from?

The track record of Vivek Kumar is hardly inspiring. The senior IPS officer, Shobha Ohatkar, had censured him for not acting on the complaint of a girl who was sexually harassed regularly and later committed suicide in Sitamarhi on Kumar's watch. His tenure in Bhagalpur has also been controversial. And yet, Kumar got prime postings.

But it would be unfair to target Kumar alone. Police headquarters have complaints against more than half a dozen SPs involved in various irregularities. Yet, they remain comfortably ensconced in the districts they have been posted to. Around two decades ago, there used to be a handful of SPs who were role models. The names of Ohatkar, D.N. Gautam, Kundan Krishna and a few others used to evoke fear in the minds of criminals. Today, there is no name that wrongdoers fear.

People suffer

Bihar is a state in which the police are given sweeping powers, especially through the anti-liquor laws. Before 2016, there was little illicit gain to be made in liquor. After prohibition, things have changed. The more power the police are given, the more widespread the corruption becomes, and the SPs of the districts are part of those who can benefit. Many at the police headquarters are said to be wagering that if similar raids were to be conducted on other SPs, they would result in the seizing of larger amounts of wealth than what was found in Kumar's possession.

One of the reasons cited for the rot that has set into the system is that the postings of SPs are no longer made on the basis of their track records or their efficiency. They are decided keeping in mind caste and political backing. Kumar is reported to have had the backing of a powerful Bharatiya Janata Party politician in Uttar Pradesh, and some have sought to explain the police not arresting him despite illegal arms being detected at his home.

Senior police officials have virtually thrown their hands up in the air in frustration as their recommendations against junior officers are either stonewalled or ignored. There was a report on the negligence by senior district officials of Patna for the stampede in Gandhi Maidan which led to the death of dozens of people. No action was taken, no responsibility or accountability was fixed.

One of the main reasons given for the nosedive in the efficacy of policing is the poor quality of officers joining the force. Old-timers recall that between the 1960s and 1980s, by the time a young IAS or IPS officer actually started to think about money, around 10 years of their service would have already passed.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a demand for the posting of young IAS and IPS officers in the districts. The scene is now different. One can call it the commercialization of styles of living, the failure of the government to choose the right people for the job, the failure to fix responsibility or the practice of giving unabridged power to people not equipped to handle it. Whatever the reason might be, it is the people of Bihar who are suffering.


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