Editorial – Wolves in Sheep Clothing

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Nothing should have come as more shocking than the news splashed on the front pages of local dailies today that an underground activist caught in the act of extortion turned out to be a personnel of the India Reserved Battalion, IRB, an armed constabulary of the Manipur government. This is also not the first time such a thing has happened, and indeed the Manipur police constabularies have come to have the extremely disparaging reputation of being infiltrated by various militant groups in a big way. If propriety was the rule of the game, today’s development should have even demanded the resignation of the top executive of the state, the chief minister, Okram Ibobi, himself, or at least his home minister, under whom the police department comes. Unfortunately, Okram Ibobi is also the home minister just as he is also the finance minister. He cannot in his capacity as chief minster possibly fire himself in his other avatar as home minister. In all likelihood, not to speak of heads rolling at the ministerial level, it is quite predictable that not even any of the senior police officers, the DGP included, would he held accountable for what should be described not only as shameful, but also dangerous development in equal measure, in the police department. But then, in the power corridors of Manipur, and indeed all over the country, shame and accountability are terms which have been deliberately erased from official lexicon. It is only recently that strong civil society and media pressures which made the Central government to think of introducing some semblance of accountability and discipline in public administration and public finance handling by those in power. Peripheral states like Manipur, however, are still blissfully left untouched by these waves.
The manner in which militant plants have been routinely discovered in the Manipur Police constabularies in the past one decade should have raised the alarm long ago. There must be something very wrong with the department. In all likelihood, as we had pointed out earlier, a lot of this is happening because of unprecedented corruption in the recruitment process during the period. It is known to everybody that today the bribe price of even the job of a constable in the Manipur police is as high as Rs. 3 lakhs. The price for sub-inspectors and inspectors can go up as high as Rs. 10 lakhs. This certainly would have some very serious implications, the most obvious of which is, those recruited would want to recover the bribe amount they had been made to pay, and this can only be done from means other than their salaries. Money being such a corrupting influence, once someone’s conscience has been breached by it, there is no turning back. So the ordinary newly recruited constable who recovered his money by corrupt means available to his profession and rank, would get addicted to his corrupt ways. Others probably end up seeking quicker ways of making money by joining the extortion racket introduced by the proliferating number of militant organisations.
There is however a scenario much more sinister. Since these jobs can be had by paying a bribe price, resourceful underground organisations can easily invest the money necessary to pay the bribe to infiltrate this key department of the government. This understandably would be far more convenient for the militants, as there would be no commotion over use of coercion, thereby leaving the infiltration process much quieter and shielded from public view or suspicion. Corruption in this way probably would have opened up the backdoor so wide that a lot of undesirable elements walked into government’s vital security and counter insurgency organs without a fuss. The pattern and frequency at which personnel of the Manipur Police have been found involved in the very crimes they are recruited to fight, certainly points towards this direction. What is now needed is a massive cleanup exercise. What is even more urgently needed is to fix accountability through a high level judicial probe. However, even before a probe is instituted, the redemption process should begin with the top executives of the state’s concerned department owning moral responsibility, and welcoming penalty, including resignation from the posts they hold, for indeed they have failed miserably. However, this is unlikely ever to be, considering the thickness of skin of those in power. Instead, at the most some scapegoats among lower and mid-ranked officers of the department would be found and transferred or suspended from service for some time to pacify public outrage. The bigger irony is, those thus suspended would also not see this as a punishment but a paid holiday. What a shame!

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