CM must keep politics out of police force for a safer Maharashtra

  • Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 03, 2014 16:34 IST

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is doubling up as the home minister, has the tough task of ensuring the state remains safe in the coming years.

First on the agenda should be a more citizen-friendly police force, which is allowed to work without political interference. Next, a safer environment for women and fast-tracking security measures such as the installation of CCTV cameras in strategic areas.

The chief minister should use this time to correct the failures of his predecessor RR Patil, who had some hits, but also several misses during his tenure as home minister.

While tasks such as hanging 26/11 convict Ajmal Kasab in complete secrecy, creating a special force headquarters in Mumbai and putting together an integrated plan for Maoist areas received appreciation, the government was criticised for incidents such as the Shakti Mill rapes, the Azad Maidan protests and the murder of social reformist Narendra Dabholkar.

Patil also came under severe criticism for not being able to successfully set up the CCTV network-based security surveillance in Mumbai even six years after the 26/11 attacks.

Women’s safety in public spaces, especially working women has been a concern and the previous administration was not able to do enough.

The solution of many of these problems lies in lesser political interference, experts said.

“The main crux of the problem is political interference and bureaucracy in the state. If the police force is left to itself and the head of the police force is given enough rights, half the problems will be solved. The delivery system will automatically improve if junior officers know the seniors have a say in their performance,” said former police commissioner Julio Ribeiro.

He added a new police act was needed to change the current system where ministers call the shots on transfers and recruitments.

Former IPS officer and a secretary in the Union government V Bhalchandran, who was part of the committee constituted to investigate the 26/11 terror strikes agreed.

“One of the biggest drawbacks we pointed out in the 26/11 report was the endless bureaucratic procedures lined up to procure anything for the police force. It should be kept simple,” Bhalchandran said. He added that if the director general of police (DGP) is to be held responsible for security lapses, he needs to be given more powers.

Meanwhile, former home secretary Chandra Iyengar said the new government needed to rethink the entire structuring of the force.

“The home department is about policing and security together. Police planning needs to shift from a population-based approach to a combination of population and geography. Policing in urban areas like Mumbai is different from rural like Gadchiroli,” said former home secretary Chandra Iyengar.

She said to tackle terrorism, the anti-terror squad, which was strengthened after 26/11, should play a larger role in prevention of crimes through intelligence, analytics and even linguistics, especially in complex cities like Mumbai.

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