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Stuck in the Raj era

The mishandling of the anti-rape stir proves that the Delhi Police must be under the CM, not the Centre.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2012 21:02 IST

Delhi is administratively a dysfunctional dichotomy that makes an elected regime function under the watch of a Lieutenant-Governor (L-G), a political appointee drawn invariably from among retired civil servants. The mishandling of the outrage over the rape of a girl in moving bus was a result of this unwieldy arrangement. Rather than acting together, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and police commissioner (CP) Neeraj Kumar worked at cross-purposes, quarrelling over turf even as the victim battled for her life.

The Centre may have good reasons to remote-control law and order in the city but the anarchic tug-of-war between the CM and the CP, who reports to the home ministry through the L-G, exposed systemic shortcomings. The arrangement is akin to the days of the British Raj when police was controlled from London through the Viceroy — the L-G being his modern-day avatar. The political intervention that was required to defuse the situation could have been best done by the sitting CM. But what one saw on TV was a detached Centre, a sulking Ms Dikshit and an aggressive Mr Kumar. There was confusion in the central and state-level tiers of the city’s administration while crowds gathered at India Gate. The L-G’s return to the city was belated and so was the action the people had demanded from day one against the policemen assigned to patrol the route on which the rapists drove the bus.

Such anomalies are unsustainable for a city like Delhi. A regime elected locally is best equipped to soothe tempers in such situations. If the need of the hour was to engage with the restive crowds, the CM with a police force at her command would have done it much better than the Union home minister from faraway Maharashtra. It is about time that the Centre changes the terms of engagement. The least it can do is to make the CM’s advice binding on the L-G in eventualities such as the one triggered by the December 16 rape. The buck must stop at the desk of those who have the mandate to rule.