'Earlier in my career DGs were nearly 100 per cent honest.'
'By the time I retired, many DGs have not been honest.'
'One DG asked me to go and meet a home minister whom everybody knew is corrupt.'
In the second part of a must-read interview with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com, Dr Meeran Chadha Borwankar, former Pune police commissioner and author of Madam Commissioner -- The Extraordinary Life of an Indian Police Chief, discusses the corruption among politicians in Maharashtra and the nexus between politicians-police-criminals-bureaucrats-builders.
Throughout Madam Commissioner you've talked about about the political-criminal-corporate-nexus destroying the Indian civil services. How could this erosion of independence and transparency be restored? Would you suggest any measures?
I see two-three common themes in all the chapters: One is increasing corruption (in the police force), second is a very long delay in trials and the third is the political interference and the nexus between politicians, policemen, bureaucrats and builders-developers.
As Pune police commissioner, I was asked to hand over a piece of land (part of the Yerawada police station), and I've quoted this example (in my book; the chapter is titled The Minister). But in many other places, I felt that for the political leaders, the focus was neither the good nor the welfare of police force or of citizens.
They (the politicians) collude a lot with builders, developers, because kickbacks from builders, developers and industrialists are much more attractive than the abstract idea of the good of citizens.
As police officers, we could see it from a very close quarter. To restore transparency and independence of civil services, we need very aware, watchful and interested citizens who would protest against erosion of civil services. And an alert media too.
Talking about the Yerawada police station land scam, if there was a scam, in your opinion, why wasn't it further investigated and the guilty booked? What happened to the case?
See, it was very cleverly portrayed as an auction done for the welfare of policemen by providing them housing quarters. It came out now (in my book), but when I objected to this deal then, nothing was in public domain. Everything was within a government files.
Now, when this chapter came out and he (the then divisional commissioner of Pune Dilip Bund) was asked, he said a builder approached us, and he said that he (the builder) has a patch of land and the police station (at Yerawada) was in that patch.
If we shifted (the police station), he will build quarters for police in the existing police lines at Shivajinagar (in Pune).
Now, if the divisional commissioner has himself come out saying that the builder wanted this patch of land which was divided into two because of the presence of police station to be shifted, whose interest was uppermost? It was the builder's. But they (the politicians, bureaucrats and builders) spun it in a way that it would sound the police force was getting benefited out of this decision.
Then a committee was formed and the committee was headed by this very divisional commissioner. But he is still insisting that it was for the better of the policeman and Meeran Borwankar was very negative and therefore he told the district guardian minister (Maharashtra's current Deputy Chief Minister Ajit A Pawar was then Pune's guardian minister).
My point is that at that time they had given it a very nice facade of proper procedure having been followed. My refusal to part with the land aborted their plan.
I am again alleging that the good of the citizens or the (police) department not the focus. It is the builder-politician-bureaucrat-police nexus (that would have benefitted from this deal).
Talking about your posting as Additional Director General CID Pune, then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told you that 'they' have made it a prestige point.
Who are these 'they'?
I am asking because in Madam Commissioner you have named lot of names but you have not named a lot of names including that of Ajit Pawar, mentioning him as the 'guardian minister' who was known popularly as 'Dada'.
In Maharashtra everyone knows who 'Dada' is. That time the CM (Prithviraj Chavan) only told me 'they' (the Nationalist Congress Party, which was part of the then Congress-NCP government) have not agreed (to my appointment as ADG CID). But neither he told me who 'they' were nor I asked.
Now, he has told the media, that it was the NCP that said we do not want Meeran Borwankar in CID but 'they' -- the NCP -- did not give any reason. The former CM has now accepted that the then NCP opposed my posting as the chief of state CID.
So you've always been a thorn for corrupt politicians?
Actually, I have not consciously tried to be a thorn. My only minus point is that I don't appreciate gray. For me things are either white or black. But I guess if you are a practical administrator or police officer, you have to understand the grays. But I am unable to understand the grays.
In many chapters of your book one recurrent theme is corruption and immorality seeping into the police force.
Like you have often times said, the police force has become more corrupt now and how the bureaucrat-politician-police-criminal-corporate nexus have formed a cartel at the cost of benefit of the common man.
How do you go about unraveling this cartel?
Or do you believe we have reached a stage where this cartel has itself become a lawful institution.
In all these chapters I conclude with some recommendations which include more interest by citizens (in the governance of police affairs and government) and quick trials.
I have read that as of July 2022, 44 per cent of Lok Sabha members and 31 per cent of Rajya Sabha members have criminal cases pending against them.
So politicians have criminal cases which are pending for long. Similarly cases against criminals and corrupt officers keep dragging on for years. If they are tried fast within a year and the verdict is given, say within two years, this cartel can be broken.
The media and citizens taking more interest in governance, in policing can also help break this unholy cartel. RTI (Right to Information Act) can also be used for keeping watch on malpractices.
This cartel that has become institutionalised, can be de-institutionalised provided citizens and the media are more vigilant and the judiciary adds to our strength.
Do you believe the media can hold the politicians accountable? Do you see this happening?
Media today is taking sides. I don't think media is being neutral and is in a mood to explore what actually is going on beneath the surface. But a genuinely concerned media can sincerely play the role of the fourth pillar and help unravel this nexus.
In one of the chapters where you narrate the incident of one DIG demanding money from a senior officer in your presence, and who was later reprimanded by his seniors, and you say at least 'in those days Maharashtra cops were honest'.
How much has the situation changed since then, if at all, Madam Commissioner?
That time I knew the DGs (director generals of police) were very honest. I could write to him (the then DG) and expect that he will take action which he did.
But beech main hamare DGs hi itne corrupt aaye hai (but some of the lot of the DGs since then were so utterly corrupt)... now if you say ask me to prove whether this DG was corrupt or not I'm not able to. But we all know who takes money and who doesn't, right?
Earlier in my career DGs were nearly 100 per cent honest. By the time I retired, many DGs have not been honest. And I have also talked about one DG asking me to go and meet a home minister whom everybody knew is a corrupt guy.
Now some of the home ministers and DGs have become so corrupt that police stations are 'auctioned'.
Police stations are auctioned?!
That's a bitter reality.
- Part 3 of the Interview: 'There was intelligence Pakistan would kill Kasab'