Police suicides show the rot runs deep in Karnataka’s home department
The suicide of a deputy police superintendent, MK Ganapathy, in a lodge in Kodagu district on July 7 is the latest in a series of scandals that have hit the Karnataka home department in the last couple of years.india Updated: Jul 13, 2016 17:26 IST
The suicide of a deputy police superintendent, MK Ganapathy, in a lodge in Kodagu district on July 7 is the latest in a series of scandals that have hit the Karnataka home department in the last couple of years.
Just hours before his suicide, Ganapathy, 56, gave an interview to a local TV channel, accusing the former state home minister, KJ George, and his seniors — AM Prasad, additional director general of police (intelligence department) and inspector general Pronab Mohanty, who heads the Lokayukta Police unit — of harassing him. He alleged that Prasad had demanded money from him.
The government is yet to register an FIR, but a team headed by senior CID official Hemant Nimbalkar has been sent to the place of the incident — Vinayak Lodge in Madikeri. This has caused some misgivings as a case needs to be registered before investigation. But the registration of an FIR would mean the powerful individuals named in the incident would have to be arrested.
Ganapathy committed suicide in full uniform, along with his medals and service revolver. It was earlier said a two-page note was found in his pocket, but nothing has been revealed so far. He was said to be a technically savvy officer, and many believe some information may have been left on his computer.
Ganapathy joined the force in 1999 and had a chequered career, marked by controversies and suspensions. He was posted in Mangalore during a series of church attacks in 2008, and transferred out shortly thereafter to Yeshwanthpur in Bengaluru. Here he faced flak for the killing of a rowdy-sheeter, 20-year-old Prashant, in an alleged encounter. He was also accused of extorting money from businessmen in his beat.
His recent promotion and posting as deputy superintendent of police in Mangalore was delayed by over five years on account of these controversies, and he was unhappy about his posting as well.
Interference and harassment
In another incident, in June this year, Anupama Shenoy, deputy police superintendent in Kudligi in Ballari district, submitted her resignation, citing interference and harassment by Parameshwar Naik, the then labour minister, who hails from the district and wanted her to favour the liquor lobby in her area. She made a number of strong allegations and demanded Naik’s resignation as well.
Six months before her resignation, Shenoy was transferred after she put the minister’s call on hold to take a call from her superior. She was reinstated to the posting after the minister was caught boasting about the incident. Naik was dropped from the cabinet in the recent cabinet reshuffle and expansion in Karnataka, largely due to this misadventure.
Just two days before Ganapathy took his own life, Chikmagalur deputy police superintendent Kallappa Handibag committed suicide in his father-in-law’s house following his suspension after investigation into a businessman’s kidnapping revealed his complicity in the plot.
Handibag’s colleagues came out in his support and alleged that harassment, demands from higher-ups for money in exchange of transfers and promotions was what led to his suicide. Promotions for more than 50 vacant posts of deputy superintendents of police are being held up for this reason.
“We joined in 1994 but have got just one promotion. IPS officers who also joined in the same year have moved up thrice in the same time,” said one of Handibag’s colleagues.
“Huge sums of money change hands for preferred postings and promotions,” said another deputy police superintendent. “This can be even up to Rs 30 lakh for plum posts.”
Also in June, the rank and file of Karnataka’s constabulary raised an unprecedented banner of revolt by applying for mass leave and threatened to stay away from work. The protest, called by the Karnataka State Police Association, was dealt with an iron fist by the government, which issued stern warnings including jail terms and dismissal.
The police personnel were protesting against poor working conditions, increasing political interference and low salaries. The practice of allotting ‘orderlies’ meant that trained police constables were made to do menial tasks for senior officers in their houses. For a state facing huge shortage in its police force, this was a poor usage of its forces and had demoralised a large section of the younger lot as well as increased work pressure on the rest of the force.
On the outcome of the protest, a deputy police superintendent said there was a definite positive impact: “Leave is much easier to get and the harsh treatment by seniors is definitely reduced. And the system of being made to do menial work in senior officers’ houses by the constables has been stopped. The suicides of two DySPs, especially Ganapathy’s suicide, has certainly shaken up the department.”
The system of orderlies was withdrawn by the government, and promises to look into their salary structure and housing arrangements were also made. Housing for police personnel is another huge issue in the state, and prompted some of the family members to come out to protest against the poor quality and quantity of housing available to them.
The name of former home minister KJ George, now minister in-charge of the development of Bangalore and town planning, also came up in the controversial suicide on March 15, 2015, of a young IAS officer, DK Ravi, who was the then additional commissioner for enforcement in the commercial taxes department. At the time of his death, Ravi was pursuing the non-payment of taxes by a number of real estate firms, including those owned by George and DK Shivakumar, another powerful minister in the Karnataka cabinet (no relation to Ravi).
Ravi, known to be a highly motivated and idealistic young man, had just a few months earlier taken on the sand mafia as the DC, was much loved in the Kolar district, but also made powerful enemies there. He was shifted to the post in the enforcement department at the request of his father-in-law, who wanted to protect him.
In his new posting, he was able to collect Rs 100 crore in unpaid taxes in just a month, said his colleagues, and was planning to conduct raids on several builders when the news of his alleged suicide came. After days of uproar in the assembly, the case was transferred from the state CID to the CBI, which found prima facie evidence of suicide and filed a closure report in the latter part of 2015.
“Yes, Ganapathy was my batch mate and I knew him well,” said a deputy superintendent of police from Bangalore on condition of anonymity. “Two days ago, DySP Kallappa Handibag committed suicide in Belagavi after being booked in a kidnapping case. He was young and maybe got overwhelmed by the events. But Ganapathy had 24 years of service. It is hard to think what made him so terrified as to commit suicide.”
“All of us undergo terrible stress due to sadistic superiors. I myself have been issued 50 memos in one month, whereas I hadn’t got even one earlier,” he added.
Pronab Mohanty, one of the officers named by Ganapathy, has a mixed reputation: He is considered NGO-friendly and cooperative. “He was very good at finding ways of collaborating and moving things forward,” said a senior NGO representative, who has worked with Mohanty during his previous charge in dealing with human trafficking issues. “It is hard to think that his junior faced difficulty in dealing with him.”
But not everyone agrees with that assessment. “I used to steer clear of him when I encountered him,” said an NGO veteran, who has worked extensively with the Karnataka police.
Kempaiah, a retired IPS officer close to chief minister Siddaramaiah, has been a consultant with the state home department since the beginning of his tenure, but there has been no notable improvement in the department’s functioning. Hindustan Times was unable to reach the chief minister, KJ George, present home minister Dr G Parameshwara or the home secretary for comment for this report.
Calls for KJ George’s resignation are gaining steam, and Opposition leaders, including Kumaraswamy, Eashwarappa and BS Yeddyurappa, have lambasted the government for its handling of the incident. “There is nothing but ‘gunda raj’ in this state. We demand that KJ George be dropped from the cabinet immediately,” said Yeddyurappa.
The tenures of both the present home minister and his predecessor have not seen any remarkable change in the quality of policing or administration. And, in extension, there has been no positive development in the lack-lustre performance of the home department.
The department has called for applications to fill over 1,000 posts. The hope now is the new entrants do not have to face the barriers of bribery, nepotism and inaction that appear to plague its ranks, particularly at higher levels.