Wednesday, 1 February, 2023
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PM’s security breach highlights Punjab’s DGP problem: 3rd incumbent in 4 months now under fire

Dinkar Gupta was replaced as the DGP by I.P.S. Sahota in September, who in turn was replaced by Siddharth Chattopadhyaya in December. Breach in PM’s security only made matters worse.

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Chandigarh: The “security lapse” during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab Wednesday has turned the spotlight on the seat of the state’s Director General of Police (DGP), which has become the proverbial musical chair.

Over the last four months, the Punjab Police has been headed by three different IPS officers, including two “acting” DGPs. And a fourth officer’s appointment to the seat is due now.

This instability began following the change in the top leadership in the state in September when Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi replaced Captain Amarinder Singh.

Singh’s favoured Dinkar Gupta was replaced as the DGP by I.P.S. Sahota in September, who in turn was replaced by Siddharth Chattopadhyaya in December.

But on Wednesday, as the cancellation of the PM’s scheduled visit to Ferozepur over a security breach turned into a blame game between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress, the Punjab DGP came into focus.

Now, the opposition parties have launched a full-blown attack on Chattopadhyaya for the incident. But the IPS officer, who is considered to be close to the state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, is also under attack from within the Punjab Congress.

On Thursday, the BJP’s Punjab unit demanded the dismissal of Chattopadhyaya and the resignation of state Home Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa for what they alleged was a pre-planned conspiracy to harm the PM. 

Shiromani Akali Dal President and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal too has demanded dismissal of the DGP.

Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh also held the DGP and the home minister responsible. Congress MLA from Ferozepur, Parminder Singh Pinky too blamed Chattopadhyaya.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Punjab government have formed two separate panels to probe the incident.

Also read: PM Modi could have been killed by drone or telescopic gun, claims Union Minister Giriraj Singh

The politics of it

Currently, the pressure is on the Punjab government to take action in what has snowballed into a national issue. But the question over the politicisation of the post of the DGP of Punjab, as well as several other positions of the force, is exemplified by the fact that for almost two months after Channi took over, the CM was engaged in a bitter tug of war with Sidhu on who will head the state police.

Dinkar Gupta, the 1987-batch IPS officer who was chosen to head the police by Captain Amarinder Singh in 2019, had superseded five officers senior to him including Chattopadhyaya, who was otherwise the frontrunner for the post. His appointment led to a long litigation that finally ended in November 2021, with the Supreme Court dismissing the plea challenging his appointment.

However, when Channi took over as CM, he sent Gupta on leave and replaced him with 1988-batch officer Sahota, who served as acting DGP for only a couple of months. Sahota was among the few the Dalit DGPs the state had. However, Channi was forced to replace him because Sidhu wanted him out.

Sidhu claimed that he had a problem with Sahota over the sacrilege cases of 2015. He alleged that Sahota had, as the head of a special investigating team probing the sacrilege cases, picked up the wrong persons and worked at the behest of the then Akali Dal government.

On the state Congress chief’s insistence, the 1986-batch officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya took over as acting DGP in December.

Chattopadhyaya has had a busy tenure since. Almost immediately after taking charge, he had to tackle the sacrilege case in the Golden Temple in Amritsar followed by another in Kapurthala. Within a few days of these two incidents, a bomb blast took place in a court complex in Ludhiana.

Chattopadhyaya was also instrumental in getting an FIR registered against former revenue minister and senior Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia for his alleged involvement in drug cases. The move politically suited the Congress government ahead of assembly elections expected in a few months.

Ever since, Sidhu has been talking about over the “bravery” of his government in having booked Majithia, speaking at various political rallies.

Also read: Security breach: Central panel reaches Ferozepur, Punjab govt submits report to Centre

New change soon?

Chattopadhyaya is now expected to be replaced by a full-time DGP, who will be named in consonance with the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) rules for appointment.

After Gupta was sent on leave, the state government had moved the UPSC to shortlist three officers who could be appointed as DGP. The government had sent a list of 10 names.

But the Channi government’s desire to have its own man as the DGP could be gauged from the fact that it wrote to the UPSC to change the cut-off date (over months of service left) to shortlist officers. This was done to ensure that Chattopadhyaya, who had barely had six months of service left, could be included in the shortlist, according to sources.

Sidhu’s resignation from his position as state chief had led to a midnight drama as he refused to reconcile with Channi till Chattopadhyaya’s name was included in the list, sources added.

However, on 4 January, the UPSC turned down the request and reportedly finalised the names of Dinkar Gupta, V.K. Bhawra and Prabodh Kumar.

The state government is yet to take a call on the list.

Row over security breach

The latest security breach incident has only made the situation worse for the Channi government.

On Thursday, Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh said in an interview that the incident was unfortunate and the Punjab DGP and home minister (Randhawa) were responsible. He added that the central agencies, which are responsible for the PM’s security, are to be blamed equally.

A day earlier, Congress MLA from Ferozepur Parminder Singh Pinky had said that the lapse, if any, is the responsibility of the state police head, who should have been accompanying the PM during his travel within the state.

Former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal also called for the dismissal of the DGP, saying that he was unfit to stay in his position. Speaking to reporters in Chandigarh, Badal said there was no law and order in the state.

The state BJP Chief Ashwani Sharma, who led the party leaders to meet the Punjab governor Thursday over the issue, told the press that they too demanded the dismissal of the DGP and resignation of the home minister.

Also read: Farmers had no plan to obstruct PM Modi’s visit in Punjab, says Samyukt Kisan Morcha

‘Transfers and postings a tool’

Speaking to ThePrint about the politicisation of the post, former Punjab DGP Shashi Kant said law and order in India police force come under the domain of the ‘state list’, as specified in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. 

“This is the stepping stone to the politicisation of the police force. Direct touch between policemen and politicians leaves the former at the mercy of the latter. Police being the strong arm of the state government, performs law and order duties. It turns police into a muscled force and who needs this muscled force the most?” said Kant.

“A politician’s purpose is total self-fulfilment, suppression of rivals and ensuring vote bank. And here commences the story of subjugation of police force to the politicians. Most cops, rank notwithstanding, seek favour from politicians in terms of the three evil ‘Ps’ — ‘protection, postings and patronage,” Kant added.

“These politicians don’t want to let their strong arm, the police, slip out of their hands. This is the reason why police reforms suggested by various commissions have not been implemented. Even court orders, the most important being the Supreme Court order in the famous ‘Prakash Singh and others vs Union of India’, which, among other issues, favours security of tenure of officials at ‘cutting edge’, are not observed,” he added. 

Former Punjab DGP K.K. Attri told ThePrint that the breach in PM’s security this week seemed to be a lapse in the local level management of the farmers’ protest on that particular route and not part of a larger “pre-planned” conspiracy.

He also highlighted the politicisation of the force.

“Politicisation of government departments, especially the one which involves making money, is the highest. It is not the police department alone. Politicians’ tool, which they use, is to transfer officers. Majority of the officers also consider being transferred an insult. Many officers too are happy to do the bidding of the politicians. But at the same time there are several examples of several officers who have completed their service maintaining independence and dignity,” said Attri.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: PM Modi’s ‘threat to life gimmick’ aimed at ‘toppling democratically’ elected Pb govt: Channi


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