Himachal Pradesh is a state most popular for being everyone’s favourite tourist destination in India. With low crime rates, cleanliness and warm-hearted people it is not hard to understand why. However, earlier this week a shocking incident took place in the town of Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, located just 65 Km from Chandigarh.
Shail Bala, an assistant town planner, and an unnamed PWD employee both died of gunshots fired from an individual named Vijay Singh. Mr Singh was the owner of a guest house whose illegal portions were being demolished under the supervision of Shail when the incident took place. As the rule of law is being pushed for by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, civil officers in the state have started taking their jobs very seriously by acting rigorously and with due process.
Himachal Pradesh Police is also known for being one of the least corrupt police force in India. Himachal Pradesh is also the least corrupt state in India. So when a civil servant is killed in the line of duty in such a clean state with a competent police force, the expectations of justice are very high. To much disappointment, the opposite occurred in this incident. When the murder of the two government employees took place, the main-accused Singh managed to flee the crime scene despite the presence of policemen and a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) on the spot. What is more shocking is the fact that two of the QRT members had high powered AK-47 rifle and did not even fire warning shots at the suspect, forget targeting the suspect. One Station House Officer did make an attempt to chase the suspect, but had to back off because he was without his service weapons. The suspect however was caught three days later in Mathura, UP, where the police under Yogi has clearly woken up.
So what has happened to the HP Police and the state? With the combination of low crime and honesty in the society, the Himachal Pradesh police has become complacent and weak. They have very little to do, so they either occupy themselves in traffic duties or book people for petty offences just to perk up their crime-busting records. The police in Himachal despite having such a clean image has started becoming untrustworthy in the eyes of the people. The trigger point for this downward spiral was perhaps the Kotkhai incident that set off state-wide protest turning the state upside. If you remember in this case several HP Police officers were picked up by CBI and remanded in custody.
So how did the government allow the police to become so complacent? Everything points to one man, Virbhadra Singh. Virbhadra Singh and his Congress government’s Chalta hai attitude was what caused this decline in competency. Overall the Himachal Police cadre is made up of some very well educated and clean officers. The problem starts with the low crime statistics. When crime is not prevalent, you start to lose a sense of how to deal with crime and lose focus. The police falls under the jurisdiction of the executive branch of power which belongs to the Chief Minister and his ministers in the state. So this is why Chief Minister Virbhadra is at fault as it was his job to ensure that the police remain accountable and in check to ensure they continue to make Himachal a low-crime state.
When Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur took oath, he put himself in charge of the police force that was in decline. It was a very difficult task and Jai Ram Thakur has done his best to deal with the situation. His first step in this clean up job was to appoint SR Mardi as DGP of Himachal Pradesh Police. SR Mardi is a Kannadiga with a clean record, who brings more impartiality to the police. Next, Jai Ram Thakur questioned the state home department over the poor conviction rate under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and put pressure on the police to deploy interception vans on national highways and other state roads. He also launched the ‘Gudia’ helpline and the ‘Shakti Button Mobile App’ to check crime against women.
Even with the changes coming from the top, the police has continued to goof up as demonstrated in this case. Jai Ram Thakur has already given the police a final warning regarding this matter and ordered an inquiry into the lapses. He has told the top police officers, “[e]ither you perform, or tell me you can’t do it” and has gone on to say they have 15 days to come up with a plan to battle crime effectively. As a matter of fact, he put on so much pressure that within a few days an inquiry has already been completed on the matter indicting 14 officials for security lapses. As a result Chief Minister Thakur has immediately suspended 4 officers including a former SP. Jai Ram Thakur is giving all he can, which again shows how the BJP government is dedicated to making the state great again in all aspects. With the BJP pushing for the rule of law, the pressure is on the police to wake up and work towards the upkeep of one of the cleanest states of India.