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Don’t call the police

The first contingent of Anti-Terror Commandoes stood at ramrod attention on the parade ground. All fighting fit and superbly trained to protect citizens from bombs, rockets and Diwali crackers. The Police Commissioner mounted the stage to announce his ‘call to the colours’, writes Sylvester da Cunha.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2009 00:46 IST

The first contingent of Anti-Terror Commandoes stood at ramrod attention on the parade ground. All fighting fit and superbly trained to protect citizens from bombs, rockets and Diwali crackers. The Police Commissioner mounted the stage to announce his ‘call to the colours’.

He announced and announced and announced and announced. Suddenly, one commando fainted. Minutes later, another went down.

What had happened? Were they over-awed by the momentous occasion — these same men trained to withstand water-boarding, electric shocks, prolonged starvation, standing on one leg for a day and-a-half?

I visited them in hospital, seeking answers. The first patient explained: “We have been trained to bear pain, thirst, loneliness but not this.” “What?” I asked. “Boredom — extreme, unremitting boredom. It was suffocating. I wanted to yawn, but that would have meant a court-martial. To shut my ears I would have had to drop my weapon and face a firing squad. So I hung on desperately hoping that the noise would stop. But it didn’t. Then everything went blank. I woke up in hospital.” I gave the commando his get-well-soon card and moved to the next bed.

A voice from under the sheet said, “No more speeches, please! I give up. I confess.” After being convinced that he was talking to a sympathetic friend, he opened up. “I listened to the Commissioner sahib and got totally confused. Sahib was saying: ‘I am from IPS batch of 1983, three weeks senior to the fellow you are considering to supercede me. Please, please provide me the justice I deserve.’ He was reading from his 108-page letter to the Home Minister sahib. When this was pointed this out to him by a Chicago Radio boy, he found the right papers and declared: ‘Force One, this is your passing out parade’. So I passed out.”

Our Police has been constantly in the news — for the wrong reasons. First the well-known IG charged three of his senior officers with funking the fight on 26/11. Then a book by the widow of a slain hero exposed the guardians of the law as being always off-guard. The head priest of the Home Ministry, Reverend Chidambaram, has assured the nation of a total revamp in staffing and state-of-art weaponry. An independent defence expert however raises doubts. Here’s what the police claim and the expert’s published comments.

Police: We have ordered “the sophisticated M4 Colt 5.56 Carbine which fires 700–950 rounds per minute.”

Expert: “The M4 5.56 is being phased out by NATO and other current users in Europe because of problems including jamming and heavy component wear and tear.”

Police: “We have purchased the M107 Special Application Rifle, the world’s most powerful small arm.”

Expert: “Mumbai does not have experts familiar with the complex computerised equipment needed to optimise the M 107’s use in varying climatic and wind conditions. Three officers were responsible for weapon selection. None have experience in special weapons technologies. Instead, representatives of a Hong Kong-based firm which made the sale acted as advisors and also provided for short-term training.”

Funny business, this.

Sylvester da Cunha is one of India's pioneering admen whose agency creates the widely-loved Amul ads