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Hope for a change of heart

A no-nonsense IPS officer from Maharashtra, known for his adherence to truth and justice, is new NIA chief

Hope for a change of heart

New responsibility: Sadanand Date (left) recently took over from Dinkar Gupta as the NIA chief. PTI

Julio Ribeiro

SADANAND Date of the Maharashtra cadre of the Indian Police Service (IPS) is easily one of the brightest gems the IPS has produced over more than seven decades of its existence. He has functioned as a senior police officer in very difficult times, when loyalty to the party in power takes precedence over loyalty to the Constitution and the law. My generation of officers were not asked to do that.

Only the sins of those who cross over to the ruling party before the polls are forgiven.

The community to which he belongs was known for its adherence to truth and justice, for its value system, for a simple living but high thinking. Sadanand has encompassed in his personality all those traits. He overcame poverty as a child and cracked the Union Public Service examination to enter the august portals of the IPS.

The residents of Mumbai would have been truly blessed if he had been appointed Commissioner of Police. But those in the know ruled this out as Sadanand was incapable of saying ‘yes’ to irregular requests. So, it was nothing short of a surprise when it was announced that he was to succeed Dinkar Gupta of the Punjab cadre as Director General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

In a recent article, ‘The Back-Room Mischief Makers’, Mathew John, a former IAS officer, has castigated the bureaucracy, especially the IPS and IRS officers in charge of Central investigative agencies, of “crawling when asked to bend” before “the brute power of a political executive” . The Enforcement Directorate (ED), an IRS-led agency, was, of course, mentioned, but so were two IPS-led agencies, the CBI and the NIA.

Another excellent officer of Maharashtra’s IPS cadre, Subodh Jaiswal, was picked to head the CBI three years ago. He kept a low profile during his tenure. That he did not get an extension or a post-retirement sinecure is a tribute to his integrity. It is an acknowledged fact that those who toe the line are handsomely rewarded. Obviously, Subodh toed nobody’s line.

I am absolutely sure that the Sadanand-led NIA is not going to dabble in any form of injustice even if the pressure becomes intolerable. He is a man who must have spelt out his terms even before honouring the trust placed in him. If Sadanand has done that, which I am sure he has, the NIA is one agency that the likes of Mathew will have to eliminate from their list of Central agencies which have turned into appendages of an overbearing political executive.

Mathew has categorised the ED, the CBI and the NIA as ‘back-room mischief makers’. Actually, these agencies are essentially the visible ‘front’ of politicians who want “corruption to be abolished from the Opposition ranks”. What is even more relevant is that these ‘corrupt’ Opposition leaders should be shown up as such and incarcerated just before the Lok Sabha elections. Only the sins of those who cross over to the ruling party before the polls are forgiven.

Incidentally, Mathew will forgive me if I point out that many among the ‘back-room’ collaborators are members of his service! Secondly, Mathew should keep in mind that our successors in the premier civil services are operating in infinitely more difficult and dangerous times than we did. When well-meaning citizens hail me and want me to come back as the policeman in charge of the city, I immediately admit that I would not be able to handle the present dispensation.

The choice is between conforming and quitting. Not many are in a position to quit when they are approaching 50 or have crossed that landmark. An officer of the calibre of Sadanand should have been appointed Police Commissioner of Pune, Thane or Nagpur three years ago. The people of those cities and the cops keeping order there would have benefited from his integrity and competence. But those in power are not comfortable with such officers. This is the reality.

Newspapers say that the great majority of would-be first-time voters have not cared to register themselves for that duty. Is that surprising? If you mention the name of Rahul Gandhi to them, loud guffaws follow. And after Narendra Modi’s cameo in Ayodhya for the Ram Temple’s inauguration and his dive into the sea off Dwarka, guffaws are heard, though not so loud. Students are clearly disappointed with the ‘mother of democracy’ in action.

The spectacle of ‘corrupt’ Opposition leaders wending their way to the BJP’s office has become a daily routine. Their admission to the ranks or even elevation to the high echelons of the party has disillusioned our youth. They seek better employment prospects rather than the ‘re-employment’ of Opposition politicians searching for greener pastures or attempting to evade the tentacles of the law.

Another alarming piece of news I read is that over 60 per cent of the Sainik schools will be run by the Sangh Parivar or its associates under a public-private partnership scheme. These Sainik schools had been set up to prepare mainly the children of junior commissioned or non-commissioned ranks for entry into the National Defence Academy or the Indian Military Academy as directly recruited commissioned officers.

Introducing a political ideology into these impressionable minds at so early an age is a recipe for disaster. Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan for 10 years as President, had Islamised the armed forces. The consequences of his action were truly disastrous. A good, disciplined body of men trained in the British colonial tradition were transformed into a force of religious bigots. Pakistan slowly deteriorated to the status of a failed state.

Some concerned officers, long retired, have voiced their fears in public. Will their voices be heard? In the present state of religious frenzy at the top of the political pyramid, I seriously doubt if anyone is even willing to listen.

But there is a ray of hope. If Home Minister Amit Shah could appoint a fair-minded officer like Sadanand to head a crucial agency that reports to his ministry, why can we not hope for a change of heart and of reasoned thinking?


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