“A Duty-Bound Officer Faces Many Hurdles” —Amitabh Thakur
Amitabh Thakur (now only Amitabh) exudes courage and integrity—a mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur, who left the chance to join Indian Revenue Service in 1991 for a challenging career in Indian Police Service next year. Presently pursuing fellowship programme in management from IIM Lucknow, this UP cadre IPS officer is also a co-author of book on entrepreneurship, The Fresh Brew. Besides that he is also serving as president with National RTI Forum, which was founded by him with doubtless commitment for transparency in public life. Like a true activist police, he is quite sanguine about the glimmering Right to Information—both as administrator and an activist. He sees RTI as an empowering tool for governance. Recently he was in Delhi and talked to Atul K Thakur. Excerpts:
You joined IPS in 1992, and then your choice was as transient as was the economy of India. With an IIT degree in hand, why did you only aspire for IPS?
It was a tough decision to go against the stream but my aspirations were strong. My first choice was to join IAS, which didn’t materialise, so I opted for my second dream—IPS. These two services give the proper opportunity to assimilate with people and to be proactive part of machinery.
You were never a camp follower and always defied the aegis of protection, likes of caste, religion or any other hide bound categorisation. How has been your experience?
Until I joined IPS in 1992, I was largely unaware about the actual equation on which systemic function rests. Later I came to know how even the battered parochial views could thrive under the strength of cronyism and influence the entire machinery. A duty-bound officer like me faces many hurdles from opposite camps with vested interest to make the system vulnerable. During initial years of my service in eastern UP, I had to confront many such grim political pressures but outgrowing the intermittent adversities, I saved my integrity.
What’s your view on police-people interface and overall reform in Policy system?
I support maximum participation of people in maintaining law and order. There must be equal use of both local wisdom and expertise in any form of governance. So, interface is essential. Yes, police reform is the need of hour. It should start from introducing new human resource policy and adoption of technology from the basic to top level in police system. That will be a morale boosting exercise.
How did you step in RTI Movement despite serving in bureaucracy?
It was little bit unusual but not completely, as sizeable number among government officials including those who are in police have positive thinking about RTI. A fair official has nothing to afraid from RTI which is a gateway of transparency and lastly an important factor for good governance. Remarkably, RTI has enhanced the honest officials’ confidence and reputation which was impossible through any other means. After gathering the inside perspectives of administration and realising hassle of official procedures, I decided to back this movement by joining a voluntary, position of president, National RTI Forum, Lucknow.
Do you think CBI should come under the RTI Act?
Yes, it will make overarching effects in other areas too that may finally enhance the people’s perception for these offices of last resort. I don’t think it may be taken as facile opinion to introduce RTI at most of places, only excluding those who falls under the strategic area.
RTI Activists are frequently under the attacks that to an extent diminishing the calibrated part of activism, how do you first think as an activist and later Police?
It’s indeed a big concern—as an activist; it seems to me like cruelty against the evangelists of fair governance. As a police, I think it should deal with law and order problem. Once law takes it course, such terrible incidents will sure come down.
You spent around two decades as an IPS in UP, tell us the upshot of caste politics in state which initially spread under the pseudo cover of social justice.
What happened in UP in last two decades in the name of caste is shocking and frustrating. Once the nerve of central politics has diminished to merely shadow of its past. Law and order is lagging behind here in absence of professional work ethics and enormous political pressure. The most worrying thing is the caste being used as a means of exploitation. Natural merit has no place here before the status of natural birth in a categorised caste.
Enforcement of law is essence of Policing but the state of prison is an area which is completely bereft from it. what will you suggest for reform?
Speedy trial and reformist treatment with prisoners will make the positive difference besides the jail inmates should be allowed to be productive inside the defined territory. If someone wants to pursue education, let him/her allow to do that. It’s nice to see many such examples in Tihar jail and even in some of smaller jails. A change can take place in human, even after the conviction of crime. That must be taken as a welcome possibility by the prison authorities and also judiciary. For these behavioural changes, we don’t have to look outside; the inspirations of Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave are quite conducive for infusing humane touch into prisoners.
There is common apathy for the bottom level of Policing, which is the biggest dent on entire Police system. what’s your take on these serious flaws of governance?
Lack of professional ethics is a big concern which creates such embarrassing practices and that must be checked by the standardised rules instead of sheer upper hand action from hierarchy. At any cost, lapidary approaches have to overtake the sordid practices. With addition of ethics; technology will bring a tectonic shift in Indian policing.
I hope you will subsume many issues for the sake of fair governance in policing and will also keep holding the baton of RTI.
I have been striving for the betterment of policing and will keep doing so. RTI activism will also progress and I am sure, days ahead are going to be very participative and full of enthusiasm for a fair and transparent governance.