Odisha police dance to political tune

Odisha police dance to political tune

With no clear­cut norms on whether such practice is illegal, it leaves enough room for politicians to interfere

BHUBANESWAR: Police officer Narayan Nayak’s stint in Odisha’s Keonjhar district did not last very long. Months after he was posted in Keonjhar following his transfer from Bolangir amid opposition charges of being an ‘agent of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’, he was reverted to Bolangir after the local MP wrote a letter to the chief minister requesting that he be brought back.

Though not entirely uncommon, Nayak’s return to Bolangir on the back of a ‘highprofile’ recommendation has turned the spotlight on transfers and postings of police personnel battling accusations of being a tool in the hands of the ruling party. The accusations have grown shrill since dissident BJD MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda was pelted with eggs and stones last month allegedly by ruling party men in the state PANCHANAN KANUNGO, former state parliamentary affairs minister and the police did precious little. None have been arrested though the police registered a complaint two days later following media criticism.

“In Odisha, the police have been reduced to being handmaidens of the ruling party,” says political analyst Rabi Das.

Lending credence to accusations are dozens of letters written by BJD MPs and MLAs to the chief minister, who also handles the home portfolio, recommending choicest postings for police officials.

If member of Parliament AU Singh Deo recommended Nayak’s transfer back to Bolangir, environment and forest minister Bijoyshree Routray and assembly deputy speaker Sanand Marandi have written similar letters batting for their preferred officials (HT is in possession of the letters).

Others who have written such letters include MP Pravash Singh, MLAs Mangala Kisan and Anubhav Patnaik.

Though it is not illegal for elected representatives to recommend postings of government servants, critics of the government say the practice leads to political interference. “With no clear-cut norms on whether such practice is illegal, it leaves enough room for politicians to interfere,” said former state parliamentary affairs minister Panchanan Kanungo.

Opposition parties are more caustic. “Posting of pliable officials in police stations has compromised impartiality of the department,” alleged BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma. “For BJD, pliable police officers like Nayak in lower echelons are assets at the time of polls,” said Narsingh Mishra, leader of theopposition.

MP Singh Deo refused to comment on why he recommended the transfer of Nayak.

The chief minister’s secretariat did not deny receiving such recommendations from ruling party leaders, but insisted it did not amount to interference. “Those requests are duly forwarded to the respective departments and the department heads take the decision. The CMO has no say in such matters,” said Gopabandhu Dash, joint secretary in the CM’s office.

Jyoti Samantray, secretary of the Odisha Police Association, however, said political interference was a way of life with the police. He said even the director general of police and superintendents of police were often appointed with political considerations in mind.

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