Saturday, August 08, 2009

Metamorphosis of the thanedar

Soumittra S Bose, TNN 9 August 2009, 03:19am IST


He's not the pan-chewing and pot-bellied man that Bollywood loves to portray. Today's senior police inspector is a fitter, trendy, helpful and
laptop operating man who will attend to your complaints with patience not seen in yesteryears.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Try equating thanedari to any art form and connoisseurs will instantly bay for blood for mixing the two. But, 49-year-old Mahesh Sawai believes that being in-charge of police station now has many role-plays moving far beyond the rustic caretaker of law as village kotwals, or even before that, monitor of the revenue department. Today the Genx Cop receives e-tapal through internet and also has an email id.

Gone are the days of an obese, pan-chewing and red-eyed burly man struggling to fit in a chair. The sight was enough to turn away a anyone, be it a complainant or a visitor, from the police station. Today, a senior police inspector is not just media-savvy but is also fitter, athletic, gym-going, with a smiling face, comfortable with Hinglish. He will even be sporting a trendy goggle.

A thanedar today is a senior police officer for the entire society. His multifarious role packs several responsibilities which includes that of a social-worker for the slum-dwellers, counsellor for runaway teens or frittering away couples, a good Samaritan for elderly couples, a shield for errant government officials facing public wrath, first-aid adviser for an accident victim lying unattended, peace negotiator between warring communities or political parties, friends of the media, a chief guest at local gully cricket's prize distribution ceremony, a real Robin Hood many times to bail out a cash-strapped father of a marriageable woman, rehabilitator of women, children and others in need who have been either left out from the family by choice or force, sponsor of needy but scholar students. Lastly, he is also an able organiser of health check-up camp, eye camp, blood camp and other welfare activities for both his department and citizens.

A senior PI also cannot to protect citizens in public space lest a 26/11 is repeated anywhere in India. Between the terrorists and citizens, a modern day thanedar needs to accept the newest challenge of being the commander of the first line of defence, motivating a bunch of constables to stand bravely facing bullets of the automatic weapon-wielding terrorists, until the specialised force equipped with modern arms and ammunition arrives.

The days of maintaining records of only criminals are a thing of the past. With the threat of terrorists and naxals looming large, the senior PIs, nowadays, also need to master the techniques of intelligence collection and create a deep-rooted network in the society to gather inputs. In order to face the front organisations of the antinational strengths, without arms and ammunitions, a modern day thanedar also needs to shape his strong lobby-supports among the citizens.

Similarly, the techniques of interrogation and recording statements have also witnessed a sea change. "A thanedar can still show his lathi but cannot actually use it even for the betterment of the society. The lathi has almost reduced to its symbolic status of authority," said a senior PI.

"In the past, no one would even think of meeting or greeting the thanedar who would work from his crammed cabin. Now, one needs to ensure that senior PI's chamber also looks like a decent government office chamber," said Sawai who is one of the cops who made the successful transition from a simple thanedar to a modern day cop. "The present day senior police inspector needs to meet people in his chamber. Our presentation goes a long way in shaping the image of the department. We have to greet visitors with a glass of water or at times even tea or chaas. Citizens walk into our chamber ignoring the station-house. We get calls on our private cells even at odd hours. This was not a thing in the past. Language has also to be controlled."

Retired police officer Sunil Bhute said that policing and thanedari have witnessed a sea change. "Today, a senior in-charge of police station is held responsible for every incident taking place in his jurisdiction and is expected to rush everywhere. Earlier, it was the beat in-charges or sub-inspectors who tackled and managed every incident in the locality where he or she was deployed. In fact, the present practice of completing the officer's training in one year is not as good as system when the training was imparted elaborately in two years. This has brought down the standard of policing and thanedari," said Bhute who retired as deputy superintendent of police.
Senior inspector Ashok Bagul, who's the in-charge of Hingna police station and is in his early 40s, presents a relatively younger face of the fresh crop of thanedars. Working on laptops, Bagul is passionate about his physique. Sporting jeans and T-shirts, Bagul talks about resource management and maximum output in stipulated time and believe in first impression theory. "The younger generation of officers believe in looking good and performing well just like any other senior-level executives in a private firm. Though we do not have facilities and infrastructure like private enterprises, we still want to believe in competency level and responsibility," said Bagul.

"Police department ends up as a favourite sandbag of everybody. Love or hate us, we are everywhere and available. Try contacting any other government department in the middle of the night, nobody will respond. But we will be there at your doorstep in 10 minutes. Police may suffer from typical idiosyncrasies but we are among the first responders who is by your side in crisis," said Bagul.

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