The attack

The attack on the home of Kartikeyan Pandian, IAS, seems to have disturbed the bureaucrats of Orissa. The incident takes a different colour because the protesters, who barged into the government allotted accommodation of the officer, carried flags of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pandian at present is the private secretary to the Chief Minister. It is common knowledge that every political head of every state government as well as at the Centre keeps certain bureaucrats on whom they can trust. In Orissa, most Chief Ministers in the past have had private secretaries or principal secretaries who were rumoured to have enjoyed great proximity to the top bosses. Biju Patnaik trusted Pyari Mohan Mohapatra; Nilamoni Routray had a confidant in Akshay Kumar Biswal as well as Debendra Mishra; Janaki Ballav Patnaik had Madan Panda and Sudhansu Bhusan Mishra; Nandini Satpathy had reposed faith in Ramakant Rath, and so on and so forth. Look at Narendra Damodardas Modi’s office at New Delhi and one can understand, to some extent, what is expected from bureaucrats. Modi’s PMO has some retired and some serving but primarily Gujarat cadre bureaucrats such as PK Mishra and GC Murmu who are considered to be his closest and who call all the shots. Another bureaucrat, Nripendra Mishra, is also a case worth noting. Vajpayee’s government had created Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The Constitution had been amended at that time in such a manner as to ensure that once a bureaucrat adorns the office of Chairman, TRAI, he or she will not be eligible to take up any other position in government after retirement. However, when the Narendra Damodardas Modi led government was formed in 2014, in the very first session of the 16th Lok Sabha, one of the very first Bills brought forth was a Constitution amendment. That amendment was to overturn Vajpayee government’s decision and to act as an enabler to permit Nripendra Mishra, the very first TRAI Chairman, to become the senior-most officer in the PMO, a post he enjoys even today. In Delhi’s bureaucratic, journalistic and political circles it is common knowledge that the PMO controls every minute detail of the total functioning of the central government. These few officers occupy very important posts ranging from Secretary to the PM to Director Enforcement. It is but obvious that every individual who is blessed to occupy important positions such as Prime Minister or Chief Minister is definitely entitled to choose executives on whom to repose faith and expect not only confidentiality but also effectiveness in implementing schemes and programmes that the top boss considers vital. No fault can be found either in PM Modi’s decisions on how he proposes to populate his office or how any other head of any government desires to recruit staff of own liking. Even a person nominated as a Governor of any state has the freedom to select an Aide de Camp (ADC) of his or her choice. The prerogative exclusively rests on the top person holding that position. However, that is not the point that needs immediate attention of the state government. History has a few lessons for the administration to learn in this ugly incident. A few examples would show how Orissa Police has consistently tolerated mischief mongers over the past decade or so. Take for example the case of Mrinalini Darswal, the former Collector of Sambalpur who had so-called lawyers barge into her home where she lived on her own. Sanjay Singh, former Vice Chancellor in Charge of Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) had his home attacked by some 50 anti-socials claiming to be students. That when the officer concerned was absent and only his wife and two kids were home. Former ministers such as Damodar Rout, Pranab Prakash Das, Debi Prasad Mishra, Prafulla Ghadei, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak and others were unfortunate enough to have gone through the ordeal of having their homes attacked and goons entering. This kind of illegal, forcible entry into the homes of various people has become an acceptable occurrence in Orissa, especially in Bhubaneswar. Not only these VIPs but also common citizens have been forced to undergo such terrible experiences. The Police, invariably, has not taken any action. Since no severe punishment has been meted out in the past, hoodlums do not think twice before committing such crimes. Nipping-in-the-bud concept is not known to the Orissa Police.

Sadly, the state Police have learnt to be mute spectators. It is interesting to note that there is a Special Branch of the state Police and a District Intelligence Bureau (DIB) in every district of the state. The Commissionerate of Police, whether in New Delhi or Bhubaneswar, has huge amounts of money earmarked annually for clandestine spending with the sole purpose of intelligence collection. Undoubtedly, Delhi Police would have astronomical figures to spend, which no state Police could possibly match. However, in Orissa, it is heard that this money seems to be getting spent by senior officers of the state and Commissionerate Police for keeping hand-picked journalists happy. The core cause for which it is sanctioned has gone for a toss. No policing can be perfect if small criminal incidents of today are allowed to grow and take enormous proportions tomorrow. Similarly, no Police can be effective without adequate intelligence inputs. An incident that required a large bunch of people carrying flags of the BJP and walking down a main thoroughfare of the capital city of the state and yet go unnoticed by the cops speaks volumes about the abilities of the Bhubaneswar Police.

Government can definitely be faulted for choosing inappropriate officers to head the state and Commissionerate Police. In reality, it is the Police that is considered the end of the road, or as they say ‘last mile delivery’, which makes or mars the image of any administration. Searching and posting police officers who will only kowtow to some people but neglect their basic duties has resulted in the deterioration that can be observed today. Whether in Kunduli rape survivor’s suicide incident or in Kartikeyan Pandian’s home being attacked, the indicators are clear that the Orissa Police is in terrible hands. Ask common citizens and the intensity of their plight can be easily measured. Harassment of women and young girls, forcible eviction from land and homes, gangsters entering private residences, groups collecting funds on roads in broad daylight are regular occurrences that are carried out in full knowledge of the cops. And finally, when those same anti-socials donning political flags descend on hapless victims, it becomes too late to change the course of events. Newspapers are full of such stories daily. The Orissa Police is unwilling to acknowledge and act on such issues because the seniors refuse to take action on their ‘favourite’ juniors manning the police stations.

It is quite possible that while you read this very editorial, the Orissa Police is busy turning away many helpless people and depriving them of justice.

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