Maharashtra Police has been working relentlessly to combat the present coronavirus pandemic, all while keeping a vigil on law and order. In an exclusive interview with Sanjay Jog on the occasion of the twelfth anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh speaks on a number of issues.
A few months after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government assumed office, the coronavirus pandemic posed a serious challenge. The police force is working literally 24x7. What is your take?
The entire police force has been working since day one to effectively implement the COVID-19 containment strategy. During the curfew and lockdown, the police personnel were busy on the road implementing successive government orders by appealing to the citizens to cooperate. This is despite every danger of contracting the virus. As on date, 298 police officers and personnel died because of COVID-19.
Undeterred by the threat of contracting the virus, the police force has been discharging its duties, including the maintenance of law and order.
As the head of the Home Department, I was also on the road and travelled extensively. I covered 31 districts and held meetings with the district administration, including the commissioners and superintendent of police for proper coordination among various agencies. I also reviewed the law and order situation there. I held separate interactions with political parties and voluntary and citizen organisations, seeking their cooperation in the war against the virus. Police are tired, but they have not lost courage.
How do you respond to the barrage of criticism against the Mumbai and Maharashtra Police?
The manner in which the Sushant Singh Rajput death case was politicised in a bid to protest against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government was really sad. It was unfortunate that political parties or certain people, including Kangana Ranaut, were targeting the police force. It was also witnessed in the Arnab Goswami case. It was a clear attempt to tarnish the image of the Mumbai and Maharashtra Police and discredit the state. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supported those who were criticising the police and the state government. It played dirty politics even by roping in the name of Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray in the SSR death case. They were questioning the role of the police and the state government in the SSR case.
Now, we are asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to reveal whether it was suicide or murder. Despite repeatedly asked, CBI is still not giving a reply, neither is it making its findings open. Why is the CBI silent? Why is the CBI not answering?
BJP has stooped low by politicising these cases to gain brownie points. They went on defaming the state too. Initially, the electronic media targeted the police, but later, realising the truth, they supported me as a Home Minister and the police in general in SSR and other cases.
Modernisation of the police force has been always hogging the headlines. What is the present status?
At the outset, let me tell you that modernisation of the police force has been top on the state government’s agenda. Funds are not an issue. Today is the 12th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack. Terrorists had entered through sea so the government is laying focus on the upgradation of its coastal security. The government has procured six modern intermediate support vessels from Sri Lanka to further strengthen the marine and coastal security.
The Home Department is conducting a comprehensive study of the acquisition of modern weapons by various countries and their application in the state.
What is the present status of the bill on the lines of Disha Act enacted by Andhra Pradesh to curb violence against women?
A committee headed by Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan held three meetings in November. The final draft is now with the Law and Judiciary Department for its opinion. It will be soon kept before the cabinet for its approval. The government will later table it in the legislature.
Will the state government join the bandwagon to enact law against Love Jihad?
BJP has been making repeated demands for the enactment of a law against Love Jihad. This is BJP’s communal agenda to divide the society. The government will foil BJP’s attempts to divide society on communal lines. The government has no plans to bring a law against Love Jihad.