Saturday, June 07, 2014

Gopinath Munde accident and seat belts

Late Gopinath Munde
The accidental death of BJP Union minister, Gopinath Munde, in Delhi last week should be an eye-opener for the government and people alike. The fatal injuries inflicted during a freak accident should make people who drive four-wheelers to sit and think how a small safety measure of putting on the seat belt could have made a difference.
Munde was on way to airport in his official Maruti Sx4, seated in the back, when a Tata Indica hit the Sx4 from side. It is rumoured that an escort vehicle accompanying Munde's car hit the minister's car from behind causing dual impact. This version is unverified and unsubstantiated.
What ever way the accident may have unfolded, post mortem report suggested that Munde suffered two injuries that proved fatal. One, the impact ruptured his liver, causing excessive bleeding; two, his head hit somewhere causing fractures of two crucial vertebrae of neck, which in turn damaged part of the brain that controls respiration. This in turn stopped his respiration leading to cardiac arrest.
Forensic experts presume that the rupture to liver was caused by the armrest inside the car, which hit Munde after the Indica impact, while the second hit perhaps came from behind. Investigation will tell in the truth in this hypothesis.
What ever the case may be, it is clear that putting on a seat belt could have saved life for the BJP leader, at least minimized the impact.
The accident has suddenly driven government agencies to make laws stricter to ensure that people follow traffic rules. But what is being neglected is the individual awareness and concern of vehicle drivers and occupants to voluntarily take safety measures not for the sake of fear of the law, but own safety.
In our country, where road traffic, particularly on highways, provide no semblance to orderliness, it is more imperative that people take caution for their own sake. The incident may soon be forgotten and people will be back to normal.
Before we forget, let me tell you results of a research conducted by an agency named JP Research on the Mumbai-Pune expressway last year at the instance of the Maharashtra Highway Safety Patrol (HSP). The research was to study accidents on the expressway and recommend improvements to minimise them.
Astoundingly, the Bangalore-based agency noticed that 46 percent of fatalities in accidents on the eight-lane expressway occurred as drivers and occupants did not put on seat belts. That amounts to half the casualties or one in every two. The other reasons attributed being the structure of the vehicle and non-adherence to lane system etc.
Even if we presume that the other two reasons are difficult to amend, the research also means that one could certainly bring down fatalities in accidents on the expressway by half by just ensuring that drivers and occupants put on seat belts.
Unfortunately, car drivers observe most of the safety norms for the sake of not geting penalised rather than for own concern. We put seat belts only in the front seats (that too in metros and urban areas), load passengers on rear seats more than prescribed norms, and more importantly, break traffic rules as if they are meant to be observed by everybody except you.
And the real law offenders are the rich, wealthy and the powerful, who zoom fast in their luxury cars and actually need to take more precaution than the other small car owners who breach speed limits and traffic rules too infrequently.
How many VIPs do you see putting on seat belts in the rear? How many politicians and the rich overspeed on highways just because their vehicles can pump in power on the highways?
May it be Munde who lost life or former Chhattisgarh chief minister, Ajit Jogi who is disabled waist below, it all boils down to not following safety norms while travelling in a car. I remember a Congress functionary from Pune, who broke both his legs when a cow suddenly emerged in the middle of the Mumbai-Pune expressway a few years ago. He too could have survived it had he put on seat belts.
Rather than penalizing offenders and making law stricter, it is essential that people are made aware and educated about own safety. But it is unfortunate that people learn a lesson only the hard way. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Maharashtra Police is unhappy

The Maharashtra Director General of Police's recent offer to withdraw the police contingent from the state's Republic Day parade at Marine Drive after the armed forces strongly pushed for their own men to lead and second lead the parade is just a tip of the proverbial iceberg of the unhappiness among the police brass as to how shabbily the government treats the police.
While DGP Sanjeev Dayal's offer to withdraw his force was on the point of a well laid principle that a state police force offer leads parade at the Republic Day parades in all states where such functions are held, it will be wise if the political bosses understand that not all is well in the force and underneath such reactions of top police bosses lie some issues which needs attention.
Members of the IPS, who being in the position of leadership, feel that Maharashtra Police is taken for granted by the political leadership vis-a-vis other departments of government. They want that the leadership should acknowledge and understand that Maharashtra Police is an important arm of the government and more than that it is a part and parcel. Such a view has been growing in the force due to some recent developments and some examples in the past where the force believes it was discriminated upon.
The recent issue is the inordinate delay in causing transfers in the hiearchy for the past one and half years without citing any convincing reason. More than half the force in the rank of officers have completed tenures and more than a dozen are long due for promotions. For no legitimate reason, the transfers have been withheld with neither the Home Minister nor the Chief Minister holding a dialogue with the force on who put the spanner in.
On the contrary, promotions of IAS officers were announced on time, in the first week of January, causing a strong heartburn in the IPS and SPS community.
Top IPS officers feel that the Maharashtra police, as a part of the government machinery, has done its best all the time, but when it comes to rewards, they are discriminated and left out.
The force feels that for no reason, when it came to fixing salaries of hierarchies in different departments during implementation of the last pay commission recommendations, the state lowered salary grades of police officers and men at three levels vis-a-vis salary structures of their counterparts in the Revenue department, although the job profiles of both is nearly the same in dispensing law and order duties.
First, the salary structure of the lowest rung Talathi was hiked that the head constable, then the police inspector's salary structure was lowered than that of a Tehsildar and lately, the sub-divisional police officer (SDPO or SDOP) was made subordinate to his peer in the Revenue department, the sub divisional magistrate (SDM).
A senior police officer recalls a past experience in which the job of distributing subsidised fertilisers was handed over to Maharashtra police in an extraordinary case after Revenue officials bungled and there were allegations of bungling and misconduct against them. According to the officer, when a law and order problem arose in a district in VIdarbha during the distribution process by police, the concerned officer was summarily placed under suspension. But the revenue officers who had earlier bungled allegedly went scott-free.
In the present case of holding the Republic Day parade on Marine Drive too, the police feels that the government leadership did not protect honour and interests of its own men - the police. 
Officers argue that when the armed forces placed conditions about leading and second leading the parade, government meekly accepted it instead of holding ground firm, not realzing that the parade was a state function.
The tough stand taken by DGP Dayal is in most likelihood attract further hostilities from his peers in other departments and the issue may not settle soon.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

R K Sahay's death and Maharashtra Police

The accidental death of Maharashtra ADGP Ranjeet Sahay last week should trigger a debate on cadre management of Maharashtra police and the increasing despair and frustration among the police officers over career progression and opportunities.
While the confusion over whether Sahay committed suicide or suffered burns in an accident have now been laid to rest, both by his own dying declaration and the statement of his wife, his case is a peculiar case where an IPS officer was deprived of responsibilities because few among his brethren were luckier. While many would still argue that Sahay was not assigned greater responsibilities for other varied reasons, there is no denial that his case has revealed that not all is well in Maharashtra police.
Maharashtra police has over the years witnessed a vertical divide between the `have's and `have not's. Those by virtue of their socio political or other influences having bagged prime postings and bigger responsibilities continuously, and those who have been deprived of it for years for no tangible reasons.
None in Maharashtra police can deny that there has also been a marked discrimination among officers who are posted in Mumbai and those outside Mumbai, with the latter being traditionally treated as poor cousins. A handful of officers continue to remain perpetually posted in the state capital and around, while a majority are denied these postings despite having proved professional capabilities. It will not be wrong to say that Sahay fell in the second lot.
 Sahay's tales of idiosyncrasies have been discussed for years now. That he was unusually harsh to his subordinates, cynical at times even to his bosses and punishing to most of those around. I wonder if these traits emerged in this officer because he was never ever offered a posting in Mumbai, a place every IPS officers dreams to work.
Members of the IPS fraternity, who have been deprived of opportunity to work in Mumbai often remark that there exists a Mumbai cadre within the state police. There would be at least two to three dozen IPS officers who have consistently remained in Mumbai, enjoying good postings in all aspects, occupying plush sea-facing bungalows, something which their brethren from rest of Maharashtra also desire, but most never achieve.
I remember an IG level IPS officer, who spent over 20 years outside Mumbai and is now begging for a posting in Mumbai just because he needed that experience for further career progression.
Top bosses in Maharashtra police and the political bosses have never given a thought to proper cadre management in the state, the resultant being a huge chasm among the officers.
Over the years, Maharashtra police has become top heavy. The number of posts of DGPs has gone up from two to six, those of ADGPs from 8 to 16 and now 23. On the other the cutting edge workforce has reduced, as a result of which Maharashtra police is now recruiting IPS officers close to a dozen each year. This year, a record 40 state services officers got inducted in the IPS due to the huge paucity of field officers. 
On the other hand, there is increasing competition at the top, with 23 ADGPs competing for four posts of police commissioners and one a handful of equivalent posts in the state police headquarters. With postings in Mumbai demanding prior experience, a huge chunk of senior IPS officers get edged out, and frustration begins here.
Central deputations are not encouraged much, and neither are those who volunteer rewarded when they return, nor those who refuse are relegated. The Home department has made it compulsory for officers up to police inspectors to do at least one `hard' posting in Vidarbha and Marathwada after a promotion, but the same rule does not apply to IPS officers.
There are no doubt some very good officers at the top, who may like to bring about better cadre management and provide more career progression opportunities, but their hands are tied down as the powers to transfers and postings have eventually gone to the political bosses, more so since the coalition governments came in.
Although money power in transfers has waned to a large extent in Maharashtra, the state police bosses and the political dispensation needs to take some drastic steps to ensure a better cadre management. Let Maharashtra not lose its position as a better administered state.
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