IN CONVERSATION | Police Modernization is Work-in-Progress : Mukesh Sahay, DGP, Assam
In an exclusive interview with G Plus, outgoing Director General of Assam Police, Mukesh Sahay, reveals the modernisation plans for the police that include modernisation of all thanas and transforming the uniformed personnel into a force in sync with the rapid technological advances.
What were the challenges that you faced when you joined, and how did you overcome them?
I try to follow the philosophy of living life one day at a time. So for me, I generally don’t think in terms of weeks, months or years. I think of only today and maybe tomorrow. But yes, it’s a great blessing of the people and the support of the government that I completed two years. What is important is not the tenure but what I’ve been able to achieve in the two years.
What have been your achievements and what remains to be done?
We might have moved a few steps forward and the achievement does not belong to me. The achievements belong to the people – my officers, men and women, who work on the ground and on the road. As the police chief, my job is not to take the credit but to own up to the failures and be accountable to them and correct them to the extent possible with my limited capabilities. All the credit for my achievements and success go to my people.
What were the changes in Assam Police since you became the DGP?
The policing system is well rooted in the law. So my only job was to see that we work within the law and Constitution, follow the expectations of the people and do whatever is possible to meet them. Sometimes, hierarchy is important because someone has to take the decisions and be accountable for it, but most of the time it is horizontal leadership that is important where I’m also part of the team. I’ll be the captain, but I’ll also play and I won’t say that “I’m the captain, I’ll sit and watch, and you play.” Rather, I’ll take up more responsibilities, guide people, train them, and try to convert them into a team.
And what were the difficulties?
There are quite a few – some we were able to successfully crack, others we are still trying to. The cases of kidnapping, the complicated Silapathar case, are yet to be solved. Abiding by the objectives set for us by the Chief Minister – corruption free – we’ve been able to crack high profile cases and expose large number of people and such practices. The Chief Minister set parameters for us – one is corruption free, second is illegal immigrants free.
Talking about illegal migrants, none of the DGPs were able to set a system in place which could verify the labourers working at construction sites. A lot of labourers work in construction sites in and around Guwahati and these labourers are never verified. A lot of criminal activities are done by gangs formed by these labourers. It is also suspected that these labourers are illegal foreigners. Why are you not verifying them?
Suspecting or presuming does not help. Time and again, I’ve been requesting people via various mediums to verify all such people – be it maids, drivers or other workers. But unfortunately, we have not been able to make that impact on people.
Why is police not mandating it?
Mandating everything is perhaps not the answer, but we will examine this. Ultimately, citizens themselves are the police. So more than mandating it, what is important is to convince the people that it’s in their own interest and perhaps the media can be of great help in doing so. Although we have made some progress in the area, there’s still a long way to go.
There was a report by Lieutenant General SK Sinha in 1998 regarding illegal immigration in Assam and he suggested many recommendations. Do you know about it?
Why is it not implemented by any DGP till date? Why are you not implementing it?
We are definitely doing a lot in this area now. Right now, our main focus is to make NRC a benchmark document to take all other steps in the area. We are focussing on the NRC and we will also implement the other recommendations if accepted by the government.
One of the recommendations was registering all the boats in the river border areas. The boats are used by the foreigners to migrate illegally. Why are the boats not getting registered with registration number plates?
It is already done but if there are gaps we will try to fit up. Just couple of days back there was a meeting in Kolkata chaired by Union Home Minister, Chief Ministers of Mizoram, Bengal, Assam, and Ministry of Home Affairs officials; even we were present there. One of the key recommendations was to create a border protection grid. We can’t leave it to only border forces. There has to be first line of defence, second line of defence, strengthening the conventional policing system plus involving the border population. We have to work united and see that the border areas are made safe, developed better, as well as use the border population and see that any threat from across the border is minimised. So everything will be taken care of.
Talking about police modernisation what features were you able to bring in?
One of the key features is the mission for overall improvement of thana for responsive image (MOITRI) scheme where the police stations will be transformed from information centres to service delivery centres. Administrative approvals are already granted for 39 police stations, work is going on for tendering and awarding the work. This year we are planning to start the homework for 73 police stations. Over a period of 3 to 5 years all the 342 police stations will be covered. This scheme is not only about construction and equipment but about looking at things from the people’s perspective. Perspective of victims, women, children, nagarik samitis, as well as imparting soft skill training to the police personnel at the police stations so that they are looked at as persons who could deliver services to the society.
We are trying to transform the traffic challan system, the higher traffic control system, highway helpline, senior citizens helpline.
The national helpline of 112 is under implementation where there will be one single number for all kinds of help, it will start working soon.
We are converting the police training college at Dergaon to a police training academy of a global standard. We are looking for a consultant at present.
The work has started for the cyber dome project to take care of all the cyber security and the cyber crime areas.
There are many others including modernisation of the river policing – how to better access the char and riverine areas. These are some of the features that we have taken up. Police modernisation is work-in-progress in perpetuity. Modernisation also means how we change our attitude for which all police personnel should think so that we are not only looked at as an armed force but also as a service provider.
Any new weapons in the arsenal?
We are trying to add some more small arms like glocks for VIP security. One of the objectives I have set is that while VIP security is important, we have to try and make it less visible, less intrusive and less irritating. The security personnel should be armed with good, modern concealed weapons. Similarly, their dress also has to change. We are looking into it.
Police modernisation is work-in-progress in perpetuity, feels Mukesh Sahay
4-5 years back, the Union Home Ministry had suggested that the uniform of the police personnel should be changed. After Guwahati traffic dress change do you plan something on similar lines for all Assam Police personnel?
That is a major policy issue. Khaki also has its relevance; khaki has come from the word khak, which means ash. It signifies that police people are wearing a dress which motivates them to sacrifice everything. But change is a law of nature. So now the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRND) is also doing some study because this is a subject which has relation to all India ramifications. Sudden changes may be disruptive because the people have identified police with khaki. In traffic, we have made some pilot changes. For our Veerangana girls, we have given a different type of dress where they jell better with the environment but at the same time they are effective. We are slowly thinking on that line. We have to deal with the situation on a daily basis and at the same time we have to try and transform ourselves to be in smart policing system. It is tough but we are ready.
Don’t you think that the Guwahati city police ought to be carrying shotguns and similar weapons rather than the AK 47 and INSAS rifles?
There was a time when everybody thought that we need more than AK 47s but the situation has perhaps improved in the people’s perception and we will definitely think of it. But it also has financial and other implications. In the city, we would like the police to have small arms but at the same time the militancy has declined but is not out. So we still require being prepared. Guwahati is always a very attractive target for anybody.
Any imported arms you have procured?
Not now. DRDO, ordinance factory board keep studying our requirements and try and develop new arms. One of the objectives is to become self-reliant. Make in India is one thing we follow and whenever they (DRDO & ordinance factory) develop some new weapon, if they are found useful, we place orders for the weapons.
What is the reason that Guwahati still lacks effective CCTV surveillance?
CCTV surveillance unfortunately has run into some problems. It is working but we have not been able to take over some problems which we were trying to address through a third party audit. We have short listed two parties and within a week or two the government will take a final call but at the same time the CCTV system is functioning. And partly we are also using many private CCTV cameras. The whole project is not yet taken off because of some technical problems.
The city is also lagging behind in artificial intelligence...
Artificial intelligence is a new area and yes we are yet to move into it. It is an evolving domain and to be honest we are not yet ready for it. We have to improve our readiness because our training, our recruitment, everything will have to undergo a change in view of the artificial intelligence. At this stage I am not focusing on artificial intelligence but yes, the potential is there as people want proactive policing. Artificial intelligence can play some role but we are still some distance away from it.
Whenever we visit the police stations there is a common refrain of less manpower. Did you try to resolve it?
It is a problem as we are carrying a vacancy of 10,000 people. We have already recruited about 1,500, the verification is going on and by January they will be put to training. The government has announced 5,000 further recruits; we are looking for that. Still some vacancies will be left but police recruitment process takes about 12 to 18 months. There is a problem and we are trying to seek out; perhaps we have committed to the Supreme Court to filling up these vacancies. May be in the coming year or half we will be able to recruit all these men. We are also proposing to the government that in the coming recruitment process there should be some vacancies allotted to sportspersons.
Have the police lagged behind in some cases like recovery of stolen mobile (cell) phones?
Every case is important. I said that criminals adopt new techniques and they are faster than us. We have to catch up. In cyber crimes our capabilities were like next to nil earlier. Today we have developed some capabilities. Some mobile (theft) cases have also been solved but we have to try and improve our technology.
Investigating officers have to manage law and order as well. Did you think of separating them?
Assam Police Act says that every police station should have some people only dedicated to investigation. 340 sub-inspectors are training. We will try and see that some systematic approach takes place and investigation/law and order are separated.
Why is the home department controlling the transfers in police? Why are you not taking it up?
The rules are very clear and the powers are with the home department. Up to Inspector it’s with us but from DSP to above it is their choice. I am not with them.
After Akhil Gogoi’s arrest, people have blamed the police of being biased towards the government...
Police have to follow the Constitution of India and the lawful instructions of the government. What unlawful has happened to him? Police is bound to follow the lawful instructions of the government.
As you are retiring in April 2018, do you have any political ambitions?
I take life one day at a time and I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I have no such ambition and I will see how I can serve the people.