Uttar Pradesh cops make 'cosmetic changes' to mollify Mayawati
With the reality of the electoral losses setting in, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has got the whip cracking on government officials, including many ertswhile blue-eyed policemen. On their part, senior police officers are making what many allege are mere cosmetic changes in the force.
Mayawati has apparently realised that bad policing and corrupt officials were some of the key factors that led to her party's setback. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won only 21 of the state's 80 Lok Sabha seats, a sharp fall from the 40-odd-it thought it could bag.
The chief minister ordered the shunting of police chiefs of many districts where the BSP failed and asked senior policemen to pull up their socks.
Soon the police brass swung into 'damage control' mode.
The exercise started with Director General of Police Vikram Singh lauding his men for "excellent handling of the elections". But many felt that the real intent was to pat his own back.
And then some came up with what they said was the 'remedy for all maladies' -- dividing the sprawling state into 26 sectors and entrusting these into the hands of select officials.
"Nine sectors would be headed by officers of the rank of additional director general of police, 11 by officers of the rank of inspector general and the remaining six by deputy inspector general," an official spokesman said.
Chalked out by state police chief himself, the plan was projected as the ultimate solution to all ills in the existing policing system.
"The in-charge of sectors will keep a tab on the working of policemen at various level. They will not only carry out surprise inspections but also advise the officers under their jurisdiction," said one officer.
But many retired police officers feel that the change is merely "cosmetic" and the move will disrupt the chain and command structure.
Former state police chief K.L. Gupta said: "I fail to understand how this is going to improve things. This is only going to result in disturbing the established chain of command that is extremely important in any uniformed force. It is bound to lead to duplication."
Yet another retired director general of police, requesting anonymity, said: "All this is being done only to impress the chief minister, who had earlier been kept in the dark about the ground reality of poor policing. What needs to be seriously attended to is the rampant corruption at all levels in the police, besides making the senior officers more responsive to complaints of the common man."
A survey by IANS in Dalit-dominated villages around the state capital revealed that there were umpteen cases where senior officers paid little or no heed to grievances of the poor and the downtrodden.
Fifty-seven-old Dalit woman Lajjo Devi of Ambedkar village, barely 25 km from here, recollected: "My husband and I were beaten up by another villager, well known for his muscle and money power. But far from lodging our report, the local policemen registered a criminal case against the two of us.
"We gave applications to the circle officer, SP (superintendent of police) and even the DGP, but our voice went unheard at all levels until the court came to our rescue."
Radhey Lal, Dalit school teacher in a village, said: "We used to think that the presence of a Dalit chief minister like the tough Mayawati would mean an end to our exploitation and harassment at the hands of the moneyed and powerful who know how to keep cops under their sway. But we continue to be at the receiving end."