DURING my career in the Indian Police Service, I came into contact with many officers of outstanding worth and ability. One such officer of proven merit was Mritunjoy Tripathy of the Odisha Police. On the completion of my training at the Central Police Training College at Mt Abu, I was posted as the Assistant Superintendent of Police in Cuttack.
Known to his colleagues as Mritunjoy babu, he was then holding the office of the Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). He was both respected and dreaded because of his outstanding investigative skills and unblemished professional integrity.
He joined the Odisha Police as a Sub-Inspector (SI), but steadily worked his way up. He solved many complicated cases and earned the plaudits of his seniors and the admiration of his subordinates.
At that time, the scope for promotion of officers from the ranks was limited. Mritunjoy was one of the few to be promoted and given a very important charge. As the state CID’s Superintendent, he used to scrutinise the notes of senior officers in important criminal cases; he would point out gaps in the investigation and offer suggestions for further probe. Occasionally, I used to drop in his office to seek his guidance in case-related matters. He, as usual, was laconic but invariably warm.
Unfortunately, a tragedy cast a shadow over the career of this principled officer. His two sons were convicted in criminal cases. Talk of their wrongdoings spread across Cuttack, subjecting Mritunjoy to unrelenting gossip and scrutiny.
One day, I mustered courage and asked him how such a misfortune could befall a man of his impeccable integrity. Mritunjoy slowly unburdened himself and narrated a poignant tale, which wrenches my soul even today. He said he started his career as an SI and went up the ladder by dint of hard work. He remained engrossed in his work and couldn’t devote time to the upbringing of his sons. The youngsters, who came into contact with criminals moving in and out of police lock-ups or in touch with rogue elements among the staff, developed criminal tendencies. His illiterate wife was not able to exercise control over the errant sons and make them mend their ways.
I heard his tale in stunned silence. There was a lump in my throat and my eyes were moist. During my career, I have heard and witnessed the problems faced by many officers and the toll that police duty has taken on them. Due to long working hours and the absence of adequate rest, the health of many officers becomes severely compromised. But the sorrow and suffering of a man of integrity like Mritunjoy continue to baffle me. The all-important question is: Why does providence inflict such punishment on scrupulous and honest people?
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