Odisha Health Minister Naba Kishore Das’ murder at the hands of a serving policeman is bad news for the state government. The shocking incident in the Jharsuguda district exposed the gaping holes in the VVIP security system. The effortless ease with which someone could pull the trigger on a high-profile minister is likely to send shivers down the spine of most people because it came with absolutely no warning. What the murder does is make even the most powerful look very vulnerable, which is not a good sign so far as public perception goes. If this could happen to a leader as popular as Das, it could happen to anyone.
The security details of most VVIPs would certainly come under review after Sunday’s incident. As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik put it, it was a horrible tragedy. Make no mistake, this would leave a scar. The Odisha government has ordered the Crime Branch to get to the bottom of the matter, and only after the investigation is complete would one be in a better position to analyse the plot.
However, what is more disturbing is it was carried out by an on-duty policeman. The men in khaki, the protectors of the public and the high and mighty, are a disciplined force. That one of them decided, for whatever reasons, to target a minister in full public glare, is a first-of-its-kind event in the state. And it has, for sure, made a dent in the image of the State Police. As the investigation picks up pace, issues of the mental health of the accused policeman are coming under the scanner. The police across the country work under tremendous pressure, and there hardly exists any structural mechanism for their psychological evaluation, given the nature of their job and their ability to balance their professional and personal lives. In a command structure force, the relationship between the subordinates and their leadership is key to its efficiency and stability.
The current incident points to something amiss in Odisha’s police system. Das’ gruesome murder by a cop will only exacerbate the growing trust deficit of the general public in the police force. The real challenge will be to repair that image which would require the government to go beyond the outcome of the Crime Branch probe. Hence, instead of dealing with this as a one-off incident, the system should address the problem immediately.