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What needs fixing: look at a day in the life of Patna top cop

Tuesday 13 December 2005, by VARGHESE*George K., YADAV*J.P.

There are no short-cuts in the long haul that Nitish Kumar faces in Bihar. But there are first steps waiting to be taken. The Indian Express travels across a hopeful state to begin a series on what the new CM can do right away if he has to justify his mandate.

It’s barely past 9 pm and for two hours Kundan Krishnan has been fielding telephone calls. “This could be the 200th call on my mobile,’’ he says, as it buzzes again. “It’s the same everyday.’’

Krishnan is Senior Superintendent of Police, Patna. In all of Bihar, that’s perhaps the most coveted job for any police officer. Not only because he is one of the select few to have an official cellphone-no SP outside Patna has one.

Krishnan’s office also keeps him in close contact with political leaders, from whom all power emanates in Bihar’s distorted modalities of governance. And for that reason, it makes very exacting demands on him, too, for the men and women who jostle for his attention brook no delay.

Look at his day, and a picture of Bihar’s political elite and its hold on policing emerges.

Just as he finishes arrangements to send an MLA back to jail after his oath-taking ceremony, there is a visitor who says he was the ??president of Indian Trade Union’’. He has been robbed of Rs 1500 by a ??policeman in civil dress,’’ he complains. He is sent to the Kotwali PS.

Then a six-member group strides into Krishnan’s office. One of them, Shyam Bahadur Singh, is the newly elected JD(U) MLA from Ziradei in Siwan. The frail middle-aged MLA is obsequious before the SSP. He needs security. He has defeated Ejajul Haque, a relative of Mohammad Shahabuddin. Singh, too, has a history-sheeting past. ??But now I am reformed,’’ he pleads.

The Patna Police has a sanctioned strength of only 37 for personal security. But there are already 500 men on the job at the moment, their charges including politicians, lawyers, doctors and judges. ??Even a poor person is entitled to security for his life and property. But can we give individual security to everyone?’’ wonders the SSP.

Field officers of the state police say most of their time is occupied by such frivolous tasks, leaving little time for crime control or investigation. With the middle-level staff severely hit by pending vacancies, low motivation and inadequate skills, policing is becoming increasingly difficult. In Patna, out of 435 posts at the level of sub-inspector, 200 are vacant. ??Naturally, the force is overstretched,’’ says Krishan.

Many investigating officers cannot read post-mortem or injury reports that come in English. ??We need skill upgradation for the force,’’ says Ratn Sanjay, SP, Muzaffarpur. ??Periodic and assured promotions will motivate the inspectors,’’ adds Shalin, SP, Nawada.

Bihar’s dismal law and order can be seen two ways. Try to fix it all in one go, and the challenge would appear insurmountable. But address the little things first, and a momentum for reform can be set. Increasing funding and tinkering with organisational weaknesses can put the Bihar police back on track. Which will the Nitish Kumar government go for? Or will is just let things be?

That 200th call to the Patna SSP could be a sign of things to come: ??Yes sir, but it is difficult, sir... There is a warrant from the HC already, sir.’’

It does not take a doctorate in linguistics to deconstruct that.

Law and order: Do-able must-do list for Nitish ?

The Indian Express spoke to several top serving and retired police officers to piece together a “do-able” must-do list for the new administration.

? Create Police Commissionerates in Patna, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur: This will give magisterial powers to the police. From arms licenses to permits for alcohol sale, police will play the dominant role unlike dual control currently shared with the DM. Commissioners would be from senior rank, helps in supervision, response.

? Dedicated anti-kidnapping cell: District police is too ill-equipped and slow to tackle kidnappings. Special cell in Patna, headed by an IG-rank officer, can coordinate with districts, track kidnappers’ movements.

? Recruit, recruit: Assuming there is no vacancy, Bihar has 88 policemen per lakh population-the lowest in India (national average: 123). Add to this 12,000 vacancies for constables, 2500 at SI level; 200 in Bihar Police Services and 44 in IPS rank. After 1994, there has been no recruitment for Sub Inspectors. Of the 1600 SIs recruited then, 80% will retire without getting a promotion. Several thanas aren’t even notified making it difficult to track funds.

? Modernise: Over the last 5 yrs, the state has not used more than Rs 200 crore under the Centre’s police modernization programme. In Muzaffarpur, Bihar’s third biggest town, the police have one, decade-old, photocopier. Except in Patna, no other SP has an official mobile phone in Bihar ?

See online : The Indian Express

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