Book Review: ‘The police has become almost a private army of the politicians in power’

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New Delhi– B.L. Vohra learnt an invaluable lesson during his first posting that guided him through his 38-year career in the Indian Police Service (IPS) that saw him serve in almost all the Central police organisations, as the Chief Secretary of Manipur, and as the DGP of Tripura.

Posted as Additional SP (Headquarters) in Delhi’s North District, he realised that barring him, all the SDPOs (Sub-Divisional Police Officers) in the district were allotted jeeps.

“Since I was equal in rank and status to them, I asked the SP to give me a jeep. He told me to find out if any jeep could be spared in the district, and if so, he would give that to me. However, when I worked out the availability and the requirements of various officers and police stations, I realised that all the jeeps were being used. I learnt my lesson and didn’t raise this topic again with him. He told me that whenever I went to him or any senior with a problem, I should also suggest a solution,” Vohra writes in his memoir, “An Unlikely Police Chief – From and To Jaisalmer House” (Konark), which should serve as a wake-up call on the need for police reforms as the force “has become almost a private army of the politicians in power”.

“From holding the lowest position to the highest in the government has been a sea change for me. From meeting a locally elected councillor to meeting chief ministers, governors, prime ministers and presidents, even attending dinners and parties at Raj Bhawans and Rashtrapati Bhawan, from witnessing the Independence Day proceedings among a crowd to being seated on the ramparts of the Red Fort in an official capacity, from being able to visit just a few areas in Delhi to seeing almost the whole of India and many countries of the world has been a big jump,” Vohra writes.

“Thus, I turned out to be an unlikely police chief, first because I got into this profession without dreaming about it and second, because I became a chief,” he adds in the book,

The sub-title, in fact, aptly sums up his life and career, which began as an LDC in the Ministry of Rehabilitation in 1964 before he sat for the civil services examination, was selected for the IPS and joined the service in 1967.

“I peddled to Jaisalmer House (where the Ministry of Rehabilitation was located), almost an hour’s journey from (my) Bharat Nagar (residence). Being young and full of enthusiasm, I was delighted to see my new office in the Dandakaranya section on the ground floor of the building. As luck would have it, in a sheer coincidence about 38 years later in July 2002, my office was again in Jaisalmer House, this time on the first floor, when I became the Director General of Civil Defence. From the lowest position in the government hierarchy, I was reposted back to the same building in the highest position equivalent to a Secretary in Government of India. My life took full circle, taking me 38 years to climb just 36 stairs! This is the reason why the subtitle of this autobiography is “From and To Jaisalmer House”.

It is this down-to-earth attitude that enables Vohra to shoot from the hip, as it were, about his journey over the years.

“We have not been able to solve some problems for decades, like terrorism in J&K, Maoist violence in many states and insurgency in some states of the North-East. Problems have been lingering on and serious statecraft has not been attempted to solve these problems from a long-term point of view,” he writes.

Vohra is equally harsh on the state of the police and the bureaucracy.

“The police has been cut to size. It continues to be under the control of the state politicians e policing being a state subject e and has become almost a private army of the politicians in power. It has been ruined in this way, with no respect for justice given to the common man. It is affecting internal security adversely. Hence, there is an urgent need for police reforms, including the police force accountable to the rule of law and not politicians; having an exclusive Ministry of Internal Security at the Centre with more security professionals at policy and implementation levels; reducing the strength of the armed police at the Centre and states and increasing the strength and resources of the civil police as the growth of the armed police has outstripped the civilian force,” Vohra asserts.

“Similarly, the bureaucracy has been made subservient. No wonder, many among the police and bureaucracy join hands with the rulers who can damage their careers; it is not the other way around, even though it is legally possible,” he adds.

And yet, “there is still hope”.

“There are quite a few well-meaning and hard-working politicians and Indians of all hues, especially young men and women. Technology is becoming an effective aid in governance and is being used extensively, helping millions in various areas. It is continuously changing and new technological creations like 5G and artificial intelligence are coming up. We don’t know what gadgets we will have in the future, but they will definitely change life for the better at an accelerated speed,” Vohra maintains.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra echoed much of this while launching the book on Friday evening.

“There are very serious issues relating to policing in our country… The scale of criminality has increased. Social tensions have

come to the fore,” Vohra said, adding that even though the strength of the Indian police force has increased since independence, it is not enough either in numbers or in capability.

He warned that when a nation has an internal disorder, its enemies get strengthened.

Stressing that the police have to be taken seriously and the force needs to get much more support, he opined that corruption, accountability, and indiscipline emanate from the interference of politics. This situation will change only if the police officers are allowed to work freely and fairly, he expressed the hope that the book will trigger some serious thought on where we as a nation have succeeded and failed.

“It is an honour to publish the work of an officer who has contributed immensely to our country through his sincerity and dedication,” K.P.R.Nair, Managing Director of Konark Publishers, said. (IANS)

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