February 15, 2020
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'People Of The Party In Power Are Themselves Into Extortion'

Julio Ribeiro, who has served as police chief in Mumbai and Punjab, earned the sobriquet of a supercop in the '80s. He spoke to Outlook on why the underworld has tightened its grip on the city. Excerpts:

'People Of The Party In Power Are Themselves Into Extortion'

How do you react to the spurt in crime in the city?

There are various factors. As population increases, so does crime. But there are other factors too. There has been a change in the value system. The middle class wants to get rich without working. They are looking for short-cuts. And very often they end up seeking the help of the underworld. Unfortunately, getting rich without working has also caught up with the police. This has made matters worse.

How do you think the problem can be tackled?

We have to first accept that extortions have gone through the roof. To bring order the entire climate has to change. The police has to act at all levels. Even small cases of extortion have to be investigated. If this is done, the message goes out that the police means business. The underworld will then go underground. But the difficulty is that people belonging to the party in power are themselves into extortion.

Can the police normalise the situation if it is given a free hand?

If the government wants the police to act, the police should be given the freedom to work without being controlled by politicians. These days the police commissioner spends most of his time saluting his police masters. Nothing can be gained from that. To give freedom to the force the power to transfer has to be taken away from the politicians.

The state government seems to have given the go-ahead to the police to eliminate gangsters through encounters.

Is this justified?

I don't think it is right to lay it down as a matter of policy. There is the possibility that such powers will be misused. But if a gangster is fleeing, then the police may well have to resort to firing. But you can't give the police an absolute licence to kill.

The new police commissioner does have a tough task ahead.

Yes. But the police should start to take notice of every infringement of the law. It should spare no one, irrespective of the links a criminal may have with a political party or politician. Once this is done the public's faith in the police will be restored. It is impossible to stop crime. But it is possible to push the criminals back.

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