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Troubling choice

Mr Pande?s new appointment is the worst possible signal that any government could send to the police forces in the country. All talk of police reform has little meaning if officers like Mr Pande are promoted.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 21:41 IST

Rewarding loyalty is a natural and generous thing to do, but to give incentive to gross dereliction of duty and, possibly, incompetence, is quite another thing. Narendra Modi’s decision to promote PC Pande as Gujarat’s Director-General of Police, is a scandalous denouement to the tragic massacres that took place at Godhra and thereafter across the state in 2002 -- events that have scarred the country and besmirched the name of the state and the country across the world. Mr Pande’s performance, or non-performance, as Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad at the time, became evident through the hearings of the Nanavati-Shah Commission inquiring into the events.

Perhaps the saddest relate to the death of Ehsan Jaffrey, former MP who was burnt alive with 37 others in the Gulberg society flats. According to testimony before the commission, frantic calls had been made to Mr Pande. The latter had reassured the hapless Jaffrey that things would be fine. In his testimony before the commission, Mr Pande claimed he did not remember this, nor recall the events related to Naroda Patiya on that day. Neither did he seem to have any memory of discussions with senior ministers and politicians in Gujarat. In fact, his cell-phone records revealed that he had been in touch with officers in both Gulberg and Naroda and had received a call from a VHP state general secretary and one of the accused, Jaideep Patel, and had been in constant touch with the Chief Minister’s office.

Mr Pande’s new appointment is the worst possible signal that any government could send to the police forces in the country. The decision undermines the efforts being made to reverse the general decline in the state of law and order across the country, whose focus has been the special need to combat communal violence. All talk of administrative or police reform has little meaning if officers like Mr Pande are able to move up the promotion ladder with such impunity.