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Falling short of expectations

Falling short of expectations

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo

Sankar Sen

MY first impression of police inspector S Mohanty was not very flattering. He was in charge of a police circle in Cuttack district of Odisha, while I was posted there as the Assistant Superintendent of Police. A lanky, ungainly fellow with a weather-beaten face, he was the antithesis of a go-getting police officer. During meetings, the Superintendent of Police often used to tick him off for his inadequate supervision of subordinates.

However, it did not take me long to be impressed by Mohanty’s personality and style of work. He did not, unlike many police officers, run down his colleagues or make snide comments about seniors. He invariably carried a typewriter and would type out inspection and supervision notes on the spot. He urged me to follow the practice so that the notes were promptly received by subordinates. Despatching notes after returning to the headquarters is often delayed because senior officers get involved in other important tasks and memory starts playing tricks. Mohanty, though not a graduate, had a good command over English. His notes were to the point.

Once, I conducted an inspection of a police station in the Sadar circle in Mohanty’s presence. I appreciated the good work and also pointed out the lapses of the officer in charge and his staff. Some local residents arrived there. I was taken aback by their fulsome praise for the cops. Later, I learnt that this was arranged by the police station staff.

Before leaving, I asked the officer in charge to submit the bill regarding the expenditure incurred in connection with my and my stenographer’s board and lodging. He was reluctant to do so and said a senior officer’s visit was an honour for the staff, adding that I should not embarrass them by insisting on paying a petty amount. Fresh from training in the National Police Academy, I insisted on making the payment.

It was at this juncture that Mohanty intervened, albeit diffidently. He took me aside and told me that whatever sum I would pay would not match the amount spent by the officer during the inspection. He asked me, instead, to focus on the expectations of subordinates from their senior officers.

Mohanty said the seniors were expected to defend their subordinates when they were right and come down on them like a ton of bricks when they indulged in corrupt practices. Often, subordinate officers got disillusioned when their seniors betrayed the trust reposed in them.

Mohanty’s words triggered disquiet. Though occupying leadership positions, many of us fail to inspire our subordinates. They salute us and speak to us deferentially but feel in their heart of hearts that we have been pitchforked into the role of leaders without having the professional and moral qualities expected of us and fail to function as just and capable commanders.

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