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Why Kejriwal is right about the police

Why Kejriwal is right about the police
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal knows how to manipulate public opinion, a ‘quality’ that every politician must have. Even if his comments are often below the belt he knows how these underhanded comments will enthuse his support base. He has only one match in contemporary Indian politics in this regard – West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. However, Mamata is a mature politician now. After spending nearly five years at the helm of the state she has become circumspect and does not rush to make a comment as she used to in the initial years of her tenure. 

The other difference between the two is that Mamata heads a large state and not a Union territory glorified as a state. <g data-gr-id="75">Thus</g> Kejriwal’s concern to stir the debate  is more intense than Mamata’s. For argument’s sake let us assume that both Mamata and Kejriwal are at par as chief ministers. Having accepted the same let us look at the way Kejriwal accurately described Delhi police in a recent interview.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal came under fire recently after he used the word ‘thulla’ to describe Delhi policemen in an interview to a television news channel. Taking up his cudgels against the Central Government on Delhi Chief Minister’s authority over certain administrative functions Kejriwal said: “A case can be lodged by the Anti-Corruption Branch against anyone for being involved in corrupt practices. But these people say you can’t lodge a case against members of the Delhi Police. If a ‘thulla’ of the Delhi Police asks a roadside vendor for money, a case should not be registered against him, this is not acceptable.”

It was a clever piece of PR targeted to his core constituency – the daily wage earners, migrant workers, vendors, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers et al. If the Delhi police constable too voted for him contributing to his huge win in the assembly, Kejriwal had to wink at that. He could not have attacked his favourite target the Central Government without a whipping boy. He cleverly brought out the everyday corruption, now almost an accepted practice in nearly all corners of the nation, that of police collecting <g data-gr-id="58">hafta</g> from <g data-gr-id="68">these hapless group</g> of people.

Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi might not have felt deliriously happy at the derogatory reference to his men as ‘thulla’ by the Delhi Chief Minister, but the fact remains that he stated the truth. Bassi did nothing or maybe could do nothing to check such common corrupt practices of his subordinates. He could not be altogether  blissfully unaware of the hot gossip in Lutyens’ Delhi last year on certain politician’s son being involved in transfer and postings of Delhi police officers of course against some inducements. One can even dig out a press release denying such a rumour. Denial indeed confirmed some veracity in the gossip. But that is <g data-gr-id="79">besides</g> the point here.

Kejriwal did not concoct the image of an average policeman but uttered what is commonly known. The question is not one of truth or falsehood in the statement. What the ‘nation’ will like to know: Should Kejriwal have denigrated an important instrument of administration openly in an interview? The counter question is: If not an elected representative of the people who will question such a rot?
Before delving into the complex <g data-gr-id="86">debate</g> one anecdote must be recollected. An ardent follower of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a vegetable vendor in Delhi’s C R Park told my friend how he was disenchanted. According to him Delhi Police was back to collecting ‘tola’. The only change was that there was a hike in the standard rate. Similar complaints are heard in West Bengal. Not only that the ‘tola’ rates have gone up there, but also the number of collectors has increased given the disorganised nature of Trinamool Congress. CPI(M) was more structured with a streamlined system of ‘tola’ collection. <g data-gr-id="81">Difference</g> between Delhi and West Bengal is that ‘tola’ collection is ‘political’ in Bengal but ‘administrative’ in Delhi. Kejriwal as Chief Minister, therefore, will like the West Bengal system to prevail in Delhi. It will help him maintaining his cadre base providing an alternative source of livelihood. With police under the Central Government and Bassi not being accountable to the Chief Minister the wish cannot be fulfilled. To press for the demand, which is legally untenable now, Kejriwal can ignore propriety for the time being. The constable thus remains a ‘thulla’ to him.

I must put one disclaimer here: I have not mentioned 28 other states of the nation due to the paucity of space. Instead of questioning the propriety in a politician’s statement one may in brief ask what has turned an ordinary policeman into an acknowledged ‘thulla’. Could it be the low salary, the difficult work situation, lack of any incentive, loss of direction in life or now the well accepted deep-rooted practice of collecting <g data-gr-id="62">hafta</g>? The point to note is that not only policemen but <g data-gr-id="63">babus</g> of all hues, senior most to the most recently recruited one, look forward to extra inducements. We all have read the Gita only our Sanskrit is somewhat rusty. IPA
Sugato Hazra

Sugato Hazra

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