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The tale of the reliable alcoholic

The tale of the reliable alcoholic

Photo for representation. Thinkstock file photo

Satish Kumar Sharma

YEARS later, I would learn from a prominent industrialist — a reformed alcoholic and head of the Vadodara chapter of the Alcoholics Anonymous — that over half the cases of alcoholism were linked to genetics.

But in 1989, as a young ASP, I was not prepared for what I witnessed during the DIG’s crime conference as part of his annual inspection of Junagadh district in Gujarat. Midway through the DIG’s address, a police inspector got up and said in a drunken drawl: ‘Sir! You are not correct. Let me tell you something.’ A hush fell over the gathering. The inspector was known to have a problem with the bottle. The DIG kept his cool and just asked the SP to have the inspector removed. That done, the conference resumed as if nothing had happened.

Later, I asked the SP, a state cadre officer who was more like an elder brother, what action he contemplated against the cop. ‘Nothing,’ he said, adding that the officer was good in handling law & order, which even the DIG appreciated. Such a forgiving attitude in a prohibition state left me puzzled, but my own experience later convinced me about my seniors’ discretion.

Two years after the incident, as a DCP in Vadodara, I was making the security plan for the Ganapati idol immersion procession in the city. The event attracted huge crowds as the procession passed through sensitive localities in the walled city. Only a year earlier, a communal conflagration had left eight persons dead and the city under curfew for many days.

Among the officers pressed into service from other areas to bolster local resources was the inspector in question. Knowing about him, I did not want to take any chance, so I kept him in the reserve. Learning this, he came to me and requested: ‘Sir, please deploy me at a sensitive place. I am good in law and order and have worked here as a sub-inspector.’ He also assured me that he had given up drinking. The sincerity in his voice prevailed over my apprehension. I posted him at a troublesome naka on the route of the procession.

The police duty for the Ganapati procession used to begin at noon and continue till late night. Long processions through localities with a history of violence are not easy to manage. One needs luck, in addition to meticulous planning and alert supervision to ensure that the event passes off peacefully. We were lucky — things went off well.

After the last of the idols had been immersed, and crowds had gone, I and my colleagues went walking from one post to another, enjoying the cool night breeze and complimenting officers for their good work. When I came to the spot where the inspector was on duty, I found him standing alert with his men. I appreciated him for his dutiful work and moved ahead. My staff later told me that while other officers had taken turns to rest and refresh themselves, the inspector had stayed at his post throughout without any break.

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