BANGALORE: Home Minister K J George may believe this week’s incident of an MLA assaulting a police constable is ‘minor’, but retired Director-General of Police P S Halarnkar says it points to a deep malaise: a lack of leadership in the police department.
“Not once in my entire career was there an incident of a policeman on duty being assaulted, either by politicians or the public. We would not have tolerated it,” said Halarnkar, who retired after serving from 1956 to 1990.
Over the past two weeks, youths caught for zipping dangerously in fancy cars have threatened the police, and two MLAs have slapped constables on duty, but what shocks Halarnkar are reports of senior officers not standing up for their men.
He recalls an incident where a sub-inspector rushed to a polling booth on hearing that a politician’s henchmen had captured it. “While arresting them, he was roughed up. The minister came to my house, demanding their release and action against the SI, but I refused. There was a clear violation of law and the SI had only done his job,” he said.
Halarnkar was appalled to read about an ADGP-rank officer pulling up an SI and DCP for discharging their duty in the reckless driving case. “If constables and SIs do not have the support of their seniors, why will they stick their necks out?” he said.
In fact, when he became the commissioner, he had told his men to direct calls from politicians to him. “I told them my shoulders were broad enough to handle the responsibility. I also said if my men brought political pressure on me for transfers, I would take strict action against them,” he said.
Senior officers have to be available to their subordinates and build a rapport with them, he said.
Halarnkar believes if politicians interfere in policing today, it is because the police allow them to do so. “We need good leaders at all levels to stand up to politicians. We need policemen at the helm of affairs who inspire subordinates,” he said.
While living in Indiranagar, Halarnkar remembers calling up a police commissioner to complain of loud speakers blaring into the night from a temple near his house. “But the commissioner pleaded he could not do much because the trustees were MLAs and their friends. He was afraid he would be removed from his post if he did anything,” he said.
IPS officers do not have the luxury of saying they do not have ‘support’, Halarnkar said. “If you get support, good, but if not, show your mettle,” he advised.
Paid a Price
But Halarnkar has had to pay for his strong positions. When, as a DCP, he refused to oblige a Minister of State for Home Affairs who wanted an inspector sent with a vehicle to drop a woman who had come to his home. “I suggested he book a cab. He did so, but was angry. I wrote a report to the state government and this was leaked somehow from the government, causing a huge outcry during the session, where MLAs demanded action against me for turning down a minister of state.”
Halarnkar was called for a meeting with the top brass in the Home Ministry, where he explained the request was illegal. Despite the support from the commissioner and some officials, his promotion was held up for a while, he recalls. But he has no regrets.
‘Implement Dharma Vira Report’
Is there a way to fix the problems in the police department? Seniors have to stop considering politicians’ requests for transfers because they come from MLAs and corporators with vested interests, Halarnkar said. “They must learn to say ‘no’,” is his advice.
Police reforms, recommended by the Dharma Vira Commission, also need to be put in place in full earnest.
“From recruitment, training and promotion to composition of a police station and insulation from politicians, the commission offers important recommendations not fully implemented by the government. Implementing them would mean politicians lose control over the department,” he said.
Let Them Talk: DG-IGP
Responding to the criticism that the Karnataka police had no inspiring leaders, Director General and Inspector General of Police Lalrokhuma Pachuau said, “Retired officers can comment, but we are in service and know what is happening. In these cases, we have taken action according to the law.”