In 2015, in a case of possessing and selling marijuana, a squad under Police Commissioner, Kochi City arrested 12 people. A woman named Kavita Pilla, who was earlier charged with a money extortion case, intervened to get four of these absolved of the charge. Taking Rs 18,000 from each of the accused, she got the offence reduced to one of 'smoking in public places'. But then Kavita Pilla asked for more money whereupon the mother of one of the accused lodged a complaint with Vigilance. And that triggrred revelations about the involvement of the policemen who had played a role behind the curtain.
With stories of extracting money even using the ATM card of the arrested, getting known one after another, the Home Ministry was forced to take stern action. Now four years thence, 125 grammes of marijuana has been seized from the desk of Principal Sub Inspector (SI), Bakel in Kasargod, PK Vinod Kumar. This was a contraband that was kept aside without making any official entry. Items uncovered in the same manner from the same police station included gold and mobile phones.
The one who escape punishment through this wilful negligence are the drug mafia and theft racket and other criminals. This has been a complaint about our police force for a long time. It was in consideration of this that the Vigilance Department undertook a major raid under the name 'Operation Thunder' in 53 select police stations of the state the other day. Things have come to such a pass that any one familiar with the history of the police force of our country would not be surprised to hear this incident - although the discovery of incriminating items - including documents revealing the nexus between the officials of these police stations and the mafia - has indeed to be seen with utmost seriousness.
'Operation Thunder' was carried out on a tip-off to Vigilance Director BS Yasin that police officials had a hidden link with quarry and sand mafia. In the first phase, 53 stations were raided which gave evidence that 'mafia stations' were active in police stations including Bekal. Most of the cases of motor accidents and money transactions were said to be hushed up without registering cases. Hundreds of complaints in these stations used to be routinely kept aside without formal record. In many of the registered cases, the stations were not ready to hand a copy of the FIR to the complainant. Even the cash declaration register - which records the cash possessed by police personnel at the time of their entry to the premises - was found to be extensively tampered. In Karunagapppally station, cash worth Rs 80,000 in excess of what was entered in the cash register was seized. Unrecorded mobile phone, gold ornaments and vehicles were all discovered by the Vigilance team. But it is when it transpired that ever since 2012 not a single case was registered regarding sand smuggling that we know how tight the claws of these mafia are. The authorities have informed that in the coming days too the raids would continue. These raids are welcome as they will contribute to unravelling new revelations of police-mafia nexus.
All the same, official actions customarily stop with raids, without any meaningful follow-up in any case. A few monoths ago, there was an RTI disclosure that 1,129 employees of the police force were complicit in criminal cases. Out of this 10 were of the rank of DySP, 46 of Circle Inspector and 230 of SI/ASI rank. Of these, as many as 250 worked in the state capital alone. When the Human Rights Commission filed suo motu cases against them, based on the petition by RTI activist Adv DB Binu in this regard, the explanation given by the DGP was that immediate action could not be taken against the officers. That is to say, they all will continue in the force. Earlier there were instances of case files against police officers missing from DGP's office. In other words, within the force itself, there is an 'internal machinery' working to absolve the officers of the charges. If this is the policy, 'Operation Thunder' can be only seen as a hollow exercise. However, there have been some very positive approaches too from the part of the state government. One of them is the decision not to give promotion to police officers who have been subjected to punitive action. To this end, the state cabinet has approved necessary amendments in Police Act. Steps like this will no doubt help reduce the number of criminals in the polcie force. But the current problems that plague our police force are not such as can be cured by skin-deep measures. Despite the judiciary giving repeated warnings about the human rights violations by the police force, no one has cared to take them at face value. That is why crimes like custody killings continue unabated even now. What the current times demand is a comprehensive legal reform in police force. The key question now is whether Operation Thunder will open the doors to such reform.