Damned if you do, damned if you don't!!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Policeman is denounced by the Public
Criticized by the Preacher
Ridiculed by the Movies
Berated by the Newspapers and
Unsupported by the prosecuting officers and judges
He is shunned by respectable
He is exposed to countless temptations and dangers
Condemned while he enforces the law and dismissed 
when does not
He is supposed to possess the qualifications of soldier, doctor, lawyer, diplomat and educator with remuneration less than that of a daily labourer.


Connecting Gadchiroli: Connecting Hearts and Minds!

Monday, December 19, 2016

In September 2015, there was an exchange of gunfire between Naxalites and Gadchiroli Police Commandos. One of our officers had a life threatening bullet injury. After first aid, despite our best possible efforts, it took us almost twelve hours to bring him to hospital bed. There was no communication channel to contact the ground forces on time. No mobile network, no land line and no internet! Even our police wireless was not reliable. Satellite phone was the only life line. Helicopter stationed at Gadchiroli Police HQ was not available that day but Indian Air Force helicopter came to rescue the injured officer. While the injured officer was being brought to nearby post, rescue team was ambushed twice. Helicopter had to be flown back without rescuing the injured officer because he couldn’t reach the nearest post before the last light. We lost golden hours due to lack of communication network. We had to rescue him by road which was extremely dangerous; we learnt later that the road we used was mined and IEDs were in place to ambush the police party. Fortunately, we were able to rescue the officer and send him to the hospital in Nagpur. He survived. It was my first experience in coordinating a rescue operation and that was the day we thought we should do something to connect all our out posts and important areas. The idea of “Connecting Gadchiroli” was born.

On 14th December 2016, almost 15 months after that incident, Hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Devendra Fadnavis has inaugurated “Connecting Gadchiroli” project that connects hearts and minds of entire police force in Gadchiroli. 
Hon CM inaugurating "Connecting Gadchiroli"
Today, 64 locations in Gadchiroli district including remote posts and sub divisional police offices are directly connected to Gadchiroli head quarter by a high speed dedicated secure communication network. We now have a hot line to make a call to the posts directly, video conferencing and data sharing facility with internet connectivity. We have established a secure communication network that provides long distance transmission of data, voice, image and video information over large geographical area of Gadchiroli. “Connecting Gadchiroli” is a unique project and first of its kind in India especially in Naxal affected areas. Some of the major benefits of project “Connecting Gadchiroli” are,

  • Establishing Secure Hot Line / Intercom
  • Video Conferencing and Virtual Meetings
  • Interactive Training through video conferencing
  • Centralized CCTV Network
  • Improvement in Administration
  • Foundation for e-Governance initiatives
  • Internet Facility and Online Library
  • Telemedicine for Remote Areas
  • Communication Centers for Citizen in remote areas
  • Interaction channel for Citizen, Administrators and Public Representatives
Hon CM interacting with officers and men from all posts
The main purpose of this proposed project was to establish a secure communication network that provides long distance transmission of data, voice, image and video information over large geographical area of Gadchiroli. 
  • The unit commander / SP should be able to have a direct communication with interior police posts. He should be able to pass on the information which may be in the form of text, image, voice, or video. This is crucial in order to ensure regular follow ups, communication of decisions, orders and instructions.
  • The supervisory officers in the district should be able to communicate with all men in the interior posts without any delay.
  • Training sessions can be broadcasted live across all the posts so that large number of policemen can be trained simultaneously. 
  • Our teams spread across the district can collaborate in planning, executing and supervising the anti naxal operations. 
  • All the individual teams can be briefed and debriefed at the same time by commander or senior officer. Pictures, videos, maps related to the operation can be shared in real time.
  • Officers, men, and women working in the interior posts should be able to communicate with their families and friends as and when needed. This is important to ensure people working in the posts do not have to fight a feeling of isolation.
In order to achieve this, we needed to connect those areas which are not even covered by BSNL or any other communication agencies. It was easy to get a leased line to 24 places which were connected by Optical Fiber Connection (OFC). But how can we connect remaining 40 locations? After weeks of research; after speaking to friends, colleagues, batch mates, companies which are specialized in wireless communication, vendors who can actually supply and do the installation in Gadchiroli, finally, we were able to zero down our requirements. We had three options to connect our posts:

  1. Point to Point Connectivity (OFC):  Posts which are located at Tehsil and other important villages, where BSNL OFC connectivity is available, can be covered through Optical Fiber Connection (OFC) network of BSNL. 
  2. Long Distance P2P Micro Wave based Wireless Links: It is easy to connect all our posts where BSNL has OFC communication. But taking the connectivity to remote posts by wireless links is a challenge. Long distance P2P Wireless Link helps us transmit the data from OFC end points to remote posts. Only hurdle is we need clear line of sight for the communication. These links can cover up to 45kms depending on the line of sight. More than half of our posts in Gadchiroli are covered using this technique.
  3. Satellite Based Connection (VSAT): If any of the posts are not connected by either of the above techniques, we can go for satellite based internet connectivity. Though this technology is expensive, the bandwidth provided by this method will be sufficient enough to meet our purpose.
The entire team of Ank Marketing and Services Ltd, Gadchiroli deserves a heartfelt praise for successfully implementing this project. They have fought constant challenges posed all the time by Gadchiroli. They kept their momentum going and shown exceptional spirit in implementing this project.

This project would not have been completed without the active support of senior officers. They took keen interest in every phase of the implementation. The guidance and support of Hon DGP, ADG, IGP, SPs was crucial and encouraging. The entire team in Gadchiroli took keen interest in making this project a reality. It’s an honor and privilege to have worked for this project during my tenure in Gadchiroli. The true credit of this project goes to all those wonderful people working for Gadchiroli.

Presentation of Project Connecting Gadchiroli
Communication is the foundation for police administration. It is the key element that determines the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of the police in discharging its day to day duties. Considering the terrain and geographical conditions, availability of secure communication channel in districts like Gadchiroli is crucial and decisive factor in our fight against anti national elements. If the full benefits of this project are explored and further expanded, it will have far reaching benefits for the district. This will be a game changing project in police administration and developmental history of Gadchiroli. This project aims at providing a platform, a foundation or a base for new ideas and initiatives. Anyone with innovative ideas can use this communication platform to implement his / her ideas for the development of Gadchiroli. 

War against Naxalism and Romantic Illusions about Maoists

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It’s been almost two years since I wrote anything for this blog. I got busy experiencing life as it came, learning almost everything the hard way, accumulating impressions about life, and trying to make sense of why things are happening the way they are happening. After getting posted in Naxal infested Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, life has been almost like fire fighting, literally. Coming from a peaceful part of this great country, I had no idea about the extent and intensity of the war here. Last one year in Gadchiroli has shown a whole new perspective of life and taught me the value of it.

War against Naxals here is much more complex than the war at borders. This prolonged war is bleeding our country from within, challenging the very foundation of freedom. Some sections of the society, especially the younger generation, have romantic illusions about the Maoists, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. The central theme of Maoist ideology is violence [MHA]. The Maoist insurgency doctrine glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures. Speaking to surrendered naxals reveals that the young boys and girls who have joined hands with naxals have no idea what they are fighting for. They are misguided in the name of revolution and glorified violence.

The violence, intimidation and killings by Maoists in the countryside have kept the people away from the comforts of life that we all have seen in other parts of this great country. In the remote areas of Gadchiroli which are under Maoist domination, the absence of governance and difficulties in extending public service delivery systems have worsened the situation further. In the areas where police forces have flushed out naxals, people have just begun to live the life they deserve. There are villages here still out of electricity and without mobile coverage, yet to be connected to external world.

When I interact with children from remote areas, I ask them what they would like to become in future. I have not seen any child saying, “I would like to become a doctor, engineer, civil servant, etc”. But these innocent boys and girls say, “I would like to become police constable, teacher, Nurse, etc”. These jobs are greatest luxury they have seen so far. Most of these children have never seen a city in their life, not even a train! It will take at least a generation to take them out of the clutches of underdevelopment.

I keep hearing stories from my constables which are beyond my imagination. They spent their precious childhood under the threat of violence, destruction, killing. These boys who were fortunate to get some schooling have become police constables today and some of their friends who didn’t have the good fortune to have schooling have joined hands with naxals. The children who spent their childhood playing together have become enemies and are now fighting a war which they can’t comprehend fully!  Education or absence of it has defined which side they are fighting in this war.

Majority of the boys and girls who have joined police force in Gadchiroli are from tribal community. They are  fighting naxals not because it is their job, but because they want to get rid of the violence they have been seeing from their childhood. In the interior parts of Gadchiroli, their families still suffer the threat and violence from Naxals. Naxals target not only the families of police but also the families of those who wish to join police. Between 2010 to 2015 (upto 31.12.2015) around 2162 civilians and 802 security force personnel have been killed by the Maoists in different parts of India. The majority of the civilians killed are tribals, often branded as ‘Police informers’ before being brutally tortured and killed [MHA].

The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. Despite the development measures, use of force against naxals is inevitable here. Unfortunately this war is dragging us. As responsible citizens of this great country we must understand and accept the fact that, when you are in war, you are in a professional business of killing the enemy. No matter who the enemy is. If you don’t kill the enemy, the enemy will kill you. It is better not to show any mercy on your enemy unless he is willing to surrender. Wiping out naxal formations in the affected area is the only way to extend development and public service delivery systems.

Some sections of the society have romantic illusions about the Maoists, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. These confused lot works under various banners. They are known as frontal organizations of Naxals and they keep us busy in courts with ridiculous allegations and protecting naxal cadres from legal actions. Thus exploiting the loopholes of our judicial machinery to help Naxals. They also work as Naxal propaganda agencies and mobilize the people against the government. These frontal organizations and pseudo human right activists are real obstacles in the war against naxals.

Because of Guerilla tactics of naxals and support from frontal organizations, the war against naxals is prolonging.  Naxals call it “Protracted People’s War”. In the “Art of War”, Sun Tzu says, “I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy and swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted. No nation has ever benefited from protracted warfare”. Heated political rhetoric may get people into war, but when the words and emotions fade away and the conflict drags on, the nation grows weary of the economic and human toll of war, and wants out. War against naxals has already taken its toll. This has to end. The sooner it ends, better it is for this country. We all have a role to play. 

The frustration and funny side of the false complaints

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A man calls head of the district police force and says, there is a vehicle with "so and so" number carrying arms, ammunitions and explosives and moving on "so and so" road. The officer alerts several teams and dispatch them to intercept the vehicle. After an hour of hectic search operation, the vehicle is finally located. When taken a thorough search of the vehicle, not even a single suspicious thing is found. Ordinary mortals traveling in the vehicle were so shocked by the police team that they had no clue what was happening there!

Officer then makes a call back to the guy who had given information about the vehicle. Thorough interrogation revealed that one of the guys traveling in the vehicle was actually going to court to give evidence against the guy who called this officer and gave that fake intelligence. He was facing a trial in the court! He used this trick just to make sure, that poor soul doesn't reach the court room, in time, and give evidence against him!

As an ordinary mortal, what would you do to that guy? Sometimes, people find themselves too creative to make policeman's life miserable and to meet their selfish ends.

In another case, a guy dials emergency number 100 from his phone and informs police control room that his father is brutally murdered and he needs immediate help. Control room informs the concerned officer in the area and alerts the nearest police station. A team from police station reach the spot within 20 minutes after the emergency call and finds nothing wrong with anyone there. No dead body at all! When asked about the emergency call, the guy simply refused to accept that he made that call. After thorough interrogation he confessed that he was drunk and he had a heated argument wth his father. He made that call to see how fast police reach his home.

Social experiment? Well, I must say, WTF? He thought it's so much fun to make policemen run around like dogs. He did not have a slightest idea that providing false information would land him in jail!

In yet another case, a teenage girl's father comes to police station and reports that his daughter was kidnapped. Police launch a search operation with whatever little inputs they got from girl's friends and family. After 5-6 hours of rigorous search in the night, the girl was found with her boyfriend at a public place enjoying a romantic conversation. She thought she would return home early in the morning saying that she was at her "friend's" place. But, luck wasn't on her side.

What action would you take against her boyfriend, who, according to girl's father, was a kidnapper? Poor father, couldn't wait a little longer to see his daughter return home from what would have been a wonderful date for her!

Sometimes people intentionally mislead police to take advantage and meet their selfish ends. For example, an illegal liquor seller calls up police and says some Mr.X is carrying #N number illegal liquor boxes in "so and so" vehicle traveling on "so and so" road. If police buy this information and go for a raid, they will make a fool of themselves. Most of the time the guy who calls is actually faking and most of the time he calls to give information about his rival and divert the attention of police so as to deliver illegal liquor to his own client!

Many times policeman's time and energy is wasted because of fake intelligence. It just tests patience and perseverance. We cannot take emergency calls casually. Even if the information is fake, we need to invest our time and energy to verify the facts. Most of the time, cost of inaction is simply huge. In the above examples, what if the vehicle was actually transporting arms and ammunitions? What if the guy's father was actually murdered and he badly needed help? What if the girl was actually kidnapped by someone? Breaking News? Whether or not the information coming in is true or false, policeman has to invest his time and energy to respond to the call and take action. Fake information just adds to his frustration. But it does make policemen to be more patient!

Every society gets a kind of policing it deserves

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A young couple feel that their marriage has gone for a toss. The aggrieved wife comes to police station and reports that her husband and his relatives have subjected her to cruelty and harassment. Police officers in charge of the Police Station sends husband and wife to Women’s Cell in district police headquarters. Officers in the Women’s  cell try to counsel the couple and resolve the differences. Compromise is not achieved. The aggrieved women and her parents (the complainants) come back to police station and says, enough of negotiation, I would like you to register a case and take action against my husband and his relatives. Police officer promptly registers an FIR under section 498A of IPC and hands over a copy of FIR to the aggrieved lady.

Now, the “big question” is would you go ahead and arrest the accused, i.e. her husband and his relatives? If you do not immediately arrest them, the women complains, “Police have taken money from the accused party (husband) and police is not taking any action on them.” If you make an immediate arrest, supreme court says, you can not make immediate arrest. [See recent SC judgement]. Even if you arrest them after taking the statements of relatives and those who can confirm that the husband has actually subjected the woman to cruelty and harassment, the actions of police is not justified at least not every time. The worst is, if you make the arrest and the case is subsequently acquitted in the court (which happens 85% of the times) the kind of emotional and psychological crisis they go through and the kind of irreversible damage it does to the family is tremendous.

On other hand, if the woman is actually subjected to cruelty and harassment, and if the police do not arrest them, or if the accused party gets anticipatory bail, then its a gross injustice to the victim (woman). Worst is, if such case is acquitted in the court of law, it ruins the life of that poor lady.

As of today, “As many as 3,72,706 cases of such nature (498A) are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal”. In 2012, Nearly 2,00,000 people are arrested in these cases, out of which 47,951 are women. Which means, sisters and mothers of the accused man are liberally included in the arrest net. i.e unnecessary legal harassment to the relatives of husband.

There is another side to this story, may be there is another way of looking at it. You can say, out of 3,72,706 cases, as many as 3,17,000 cases are going to be acquitted and only 55,706 cases are going to be convicted. Meaning, there are so many women who are being subjected to cruelty and harassment and only few are going to be convicted!

If the case is convicted, accused party blames police for manipulating the case. If the case is acquitted, the woman and her family suffers and the man go on to marry another woman leaving the victim in the crisis. Whether there is an acquittal or conviction, police is always on the receiving end from either of the interested parties in the case.

This is not to say that all policemen are honest. The conviction of the case depends on various factors. Ability of the investigating officer, availability of the evidence, willingness of the victims and witnesses to cooperate during the trial, ability of the public prosecutor to successfully put across the argument, etc. Case may be acquitted for a simple reason that one of the main witness turns hostile during the trial. Whatever the reasons for acquittal be, it is the police who receive maximum criticism.

If you act, there is a problem. If you don’t act, there is a problem. In either way, police is on receiving end.

The society must understand that the policemen are drawn from the same society in which the police machinery functions. Policemen inherit all the traits of the society, the good, the bad and the ugly. We all are part and parcel of the same society. Its a chicken and egg kind of relation between policemen and the society. “Every society gets a kind of policing it deserves. [Robert Kennedy]”

Not all people in the society are bad. Not all policemen are bad. And yes, not all policemen are good either. All that we need to do is, stand up, be bold, and raise your voice against those who are bad. Understand your legal rights, tell the bad guys that the law is same for all. Assert yourself with adequate knowledge of law. If you do not understand law, seek help from a lawyer. Let me tell you with all conviction that, we are living in the times where even policemen are afraid of law. Whether or not there is a problem in taking or not taking an action, policemen will act, and they will act in a way they should be, provided you raise your voice, provided you raise your voice for a right cause.

If all that do not convince you, you can give a try and see for yourself!

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.