‘We put fear of law into hearts of criminals’: UP DGP OP Singh
For a state police chief, who was once blooded in the badlands of western UP, 59-year-old-O P Singh is totally opposed to medieval instant justice and is a stickler for discipline. As he single-handedly commands the largest police force in the world, DGP Singh spoke to Shishir Gupta in Lucknow on various aspects of policing. Excerpts:
How is the law and order situation right now in comparison to the past years ?
When I took over two years ago, I found that there was systematic destruction of police institutions in the past decade. Maintenance of law and order had gone haywire, criminal activities were on the rise. The people of the state were on tenterhooks with huge questions over women safety. The rate of cyber crime was up. We took stock of the situation and decided to mount a very aggressive posture towards criminals and gangs. We put the fear of law into the hearts of gangs and criminals in each district by not only raiding their houses but engaging them upfront. In the past two years, we have rounded up not less than 10,000 criminals and, using Section 14 (1) of the Gangster Act, we seized property worth ₹197 crore of these mafia dons. This has never been done in the past. We neutralised no less than 96 gangsters who were carrying rewards on their heads. This gave a strong message to the public at large that UP Police meant business. In fact, thanks to the heat mounted by us, a number of criminals surrendered in court.
So do the numbers show that the crime in the heinous category has gone down?
Yes, yes. It is has certainly gone down. If you look at the statistics, you will see a decline of 25% in dacoity, in robbery there is a decline of 30% in the loot category, and in murders there is a decline of 12%. Secondly, we have been successful in conducting religious processions in peace — be it Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Dusshera and Muharram. Besides this, we conducted the Kumbh Mela very successfully as well as the 2019 General Elections.
Have you been able to control indiscipline and corruption in your force?
Transforming the behaviour of policemen is a big challenge, particularly when the force is three lakh strong. I am sorry to say incidents do happen that dent the image of the police, as in Siddharthnagar (where a man was thrashed by local police on September 13). I have made it very clear to my force that if the policemen are going to be rewarded for good work, their unprofessional conduct will also be punished.
Do you have any numbers to say that you have punished police officials for unprofessional conduct?
I have punished not less than 400 officers and men. They were dismissed from service after due process of law. This was also the case in Siddharthnagar.
So what happened in Siddharthnagar and what did you do about it?
In Siddharthnagar, the police got information that there was a minor scuffle between two persons of the same community. The police reached the spot and, according to the local thana, the chap who was caught was drunk. My sub-inspector and constable beat him mercilessly in front of almost 50-60 people, but the worst part is that the five-year-old daughter of the victim was also standing there. I feel this act was inhuman. When I saw the video being circulated on the social media, I ordered suspension of the errant personnel and registration of a case against them. The SHO of the area has also been suspended.
Under what provision of law have you booked the errant sub-inspector?
The two police personnel have been charged with attempt to murder. Nobody will be spared. Police are not above the law. Discipline must be maintained.
Why does UP police act like the imperial force of the past? Is it lack of training, discipline or failure of command and control?
You are partly right as there has been a lot of indiscipline in the past. In the past decade, the UP police have been known for very wrong reasons. But in the past two years, there has been a massive change through expert-led workshops and training programmes. In fact, a third party assessment-cum-audit found that there has been a 40% improvement in police behaviour in the past two years. I believe this assessment as the Siddharthnagar incident cannot tarnish the entire force.
How has been your action on crime against women?
We have taken very strong measures. First, we have created anti-romeo squads, which are still functioning very effectively. More than 37 lakh people have been given warnings by these anti-romeo squads. They intensively patrol all vulnerable routes. We are also going for safe city projects in future. Strength of UP 100 vehicles has been increased, their routes have been re-designated. The response time of UP 100 has been reduced from 23 to 11 minutes.
Are you using technology in this?
Yes and that too in a big way. UP 100 has been integrated with fire services, ambulances, 1090 (women safety) and railways. So if you are travelling in a railway compartment and feeling uncomfortable, you just have to tweet or call UP 100 for action to be taken.
After your action in Siddharthnagar, many of your peers will feel that this will lower the morale of forces. Will you continue to punish errant policemen?
Absolutely. As the police chief, I am responsible for security of 23 crore people in the state. Nobody, including the police, will be allowed to take the law into their hands. Inhuman acts on the part of policemen will be punished.
A crime which is localised to perhaps one square kilometres is now projected 1000 times all over the place. How do you handle this public outrage generated by social media?
In the past two years, we have been using the social media platforms in a big way. We can call ourselves pioneers in the country and have bagged five to six awards for this innovative work. Apart from the Karnataka police, we are the only police force licensed to use Twitter Sewa. Our social media platform is much more interactive and through this we have been able to control crime and redress grievances. We have busted fake news. We have a social media cell in all of our 75 districts. I myself monitor the social media platform at the headquarters with the help of a number of senior officers.
Fake news sometime leads to communal violence, arson and mayhem. Are you able to make these platforms accountable, considering majority of them have servers outside the country?
In some instances, we have taken action by registering a case as also informing the platforms on whose servers the fake news is being distributed. We have also arrested persons propagating fake news. We verify videos posted on social media through non-political digital volunteers, 250 of whom have access to each police station. We immediately repudiate fake news. We have also appointed coordinators in foreign countries too. For instance, we have a lady in the United Kingdom who has been acting as a coordinator for the NRI (Non-Resident Indian ) handle used to sort out problems faced by their kith and kin back home.
UP was notorious for communal riots. Have you been able to control it?
Absolutely. For the last two years, there has been not even a single case of communal riots. Whenever we have a problem of a communal nature, we immediately attend with minimum response time.
How have you been able to control terror and religious radicalisation in the state?
The state was affected by terror activities from 2005 to 2010 and maybe as late as 2016, when we killed a terrorist in an encounter. We have contained terror due to strong police emphasis on this aspect through actionable intelligence as well as the support of central agencies. In the past 18 months, we have had good catches too. Two persons were arrested recently from Deoband on the allegation of their links with the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed/ Indian Mujahideen terror group.
We also busted a case of terror funding. So far as radicalisation is concerned, we have been acting in a subtle manner. For example, we caught a youth from Rampur, who was about to leave for Jammu and Kashmir six months ago to participate in terror activities. I myself interrogated the radicalised youth.
What are your police modernisation plans?
We will have one forensic science lab in each of our 18 police ranges. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has already cleared the proposal for a forensic science and police university in Lucknow. So far as cyber crime is concerned, we have two police stations—Lucknow and Noida—dedicated to this new age crime and have requested the government for six such dedicated stations. We intend to have a cyber crime police station in all the eight zones. For the first time, we have appointed an IG exclusively looking after cyber crime with a state-of-the-art laboratory in Lucknow. Very soon, we will have a cyber hub in Noida through the PPP model on the lines of Karnataka.