Police reforms and educated policemen are the need of the day, says D Sivanandhan, former Director General of Police – Maharashtra. In this exclusive write-up for Free Press Journal, he bats for more use of technology in the police force and empowerment of young women. He tackles the issues of Naxalism, terrorism, mafia gangs and crimes against women here.
Naxalism, an ideology-driven movement, has been surviving since 1972 and is the biggest internal security challenge for our country as described by former Prime Minister, Shri Manmohan Singh. One of the highlights of my 35-year-long tenure as a cop was the term when I served as the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai after the 26/11 attack. It was after this catastrophe that I set up a world class anti-terrorism mechanism. My six years stint with the IB and as DIG of the Nagpur range helped me not only to help crush a major part of the underworld; it also assisted in curbing the Naxal movement to a large extent.
In our fight against Naxalism, we have lost many of our men but the two-pronged approach of police plan in the affected areas and development plan to empower the locals, did bear good results. We were able to wean away possible recruits from joining the Naxals. I must confess that we have not succeeded completely, though in the last few years this problem has not remained as menacing in Maharashtra, the prototype is now contained in two districts only.
Terrorism has been spreading across the globe. And Mumbai has seen its share of terrorism. In the last six months, 316 people have died in Europe alone. These nations have more cops and more intelligence. So we cannot say that Mumbai alone is a soft target. There are many other cities which are more vulnerable. Mumbai Police need to replace old vehicles, boats and jackets, and cops need to be given fresh training. Modern Technology should be resorted to as a weapon and free multiplier.
Mumbai has been witnessing organized crime since the 1980s. The Pathan gang, Dawood Ibrahim gang, Chota Rajan, Amar Naik, Gawli gangs and many more grew from strength to strength during this time. 1998 witnessed 93 shootouts and 101 killings by gangs, the highest ever! And in the background were the killings of high profile businessmen like Gulshan Kumar, Vallabh Thakkar and Sunil Khatau during earlier years.
It was in 1999 that Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) was formulated after Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) was repealed in 1995. This is the only law where confession made to a police officer is admissible in a court of law. This gave us teeth. Delays in trials of criminal cases changed after the landmark Milind Vaidya case as all the criminals of the case were tried under MCOCA and the case ended in just a year. Seven were convicted for life and fine of Rs. 1 crore, 5 lakhs levied! This sent fear down their spine. This gave the police force an impetus to do better work for increasing the detention under MPDA. We had to do a lot more paper work, but the hard work of the cops brought the crime rate down. In three years, 1600 criminals were detained. The police force was incentivized by revising the rewards and awarding them with medals. A big strategy that we used then was that of mopping up of illegal arms floating in Mumbai. We seized guns and weapons from gangsters, arrested as many as possible and tried them for all their pending cases. In fact, we relentlessly pursued the Subhash Singh Thakur case (JJ shootout 1992) where he was first given a death sentence which was later commuted to life. We need more such innovative strategies to tackle the law and order problems staring us in the face.
People do discuss the so called “encounter” cases! This phenomenon is known to us since 1982! But when the criminals get emboldened and launch fatal attacks on the policemen, they have to resort to self defence under section 100 of CrPC. Ultimately, when all strategies worked together, the result turned out to be fantastic. There has been almost no encounter or shoot out by criminals since 2002 except in J Dey murder case and the attempt on Iqbal Kaskar! There is no mention of high profile extortion cases either.
But, crimes against women still remain a very important law and order issue. And I believe that women should be empowered to prevent this from happening. Young girls should be prepared since childhood to know what good and bad touch is. In fact, both boys and girls should be educated on this front. Girls should be given basic martial arts training in self defence and they should carry pepper sprays, a small knife or needle to stun the criminal as this is allowed under Sec 100 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Boys should be taught to respect women and girls should be told to assert their rights.
The biggest problem we face now is the huge number of cases pending in courts; and the trials go on for much too long. The disposal should be faster and the number of courts should be increased. We should have more cops now and the Government should spend more on the welfare of cops. Police reforms should happen at a faster speed and we need more educated policemen. They should be taken as graduates and should be equipped in forensic investigation of crimes and cyber-crime. They should be given all the facilities like schools, special allowances, training in science, housing facilities, upgraded vehicles, computer knowledge, etc. We have to invest in modern technology in the force – that is very important.
As of today our biggest worry is the Naxalite movement in Vidarbha. Then is the farmers’ issue – both, the agitations for loan waiver and farmer’s suicide. In the future, the government has to look at water management as it can be a serious problem. Another problem raising its head is the unequal distribution of wealth and this too can be exploited by the Naxals. Rapid urbanization, slum development, growing unemployment amongst youth are all crime related issues that need to be tackled by the government. Police could attempt to tackle these issues by using science and technology, increasing the quality of force, making officer-oriented policing and using innovation and technology as the force multiplier.