Bassi's time to say bye now

Bassi's time to say bye now

Delhi Police chief B S Bassi is just weeks away from retirement after a career spanning nearly four decades.

Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi enters the last month of his service with enough to ponder over his flashpoints with the Aam Aadmi Party government , particularly over the arrests of ruling party legislators.

 Unlike his predecessors, the 59-year-old Indian Police Service officer, due to retire on February 29, worked for almost a year with a very demanding elected city government which spared no opportunity to slam the men in khaki, who happen to be under the control of the Centre.  Bassi reports to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, not Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The tug-of-war hit headlines with high frequency in all these months. The scenario is such that police refuse to take orders from Delhi government, and several MLAs face police complaints and cases.

So far, six of the 67 AAP MLAs have faced arrest.  The latest, AAP MLA from west Delhi’s Vikaspuri, Mahendra Yadav, was arrested on Friday over an FIR filed with Nihal Vihar police station. He has been blamed for inciting violence while holding a protest, alleging police inaction in the rape of a three-year-old girl.

Earlier this month, the husband of AAP’s RK Puram MLA Pramila Tokas was arrested in two cases filed in December 2015. In August 2015, AAP MLA from Chandni Chowk, Alka Lamba, had also found herself in the middle of a controversy when CCTV footage showed her vandalising a sweet shop in the presence of policemen in north Delhi’s Kashmere Gate.

Both Delhi government and police officers tell Deccan Herald that the scenario is unlikely to change much under Bassi’s replacement. Police say they have full backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre to take action against AAP MLAs.

“The complaints are considered for being converted into criminal cases without any delay,” says a police officer.

The latest episode in the ongoing tussle has been the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to probe instances of police laxity in crimes against women. On the other hand, Bassi says the force is willing to kill rapists if the Constitution allows it.

Citing law and order problems, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hand over the control of police to the AAP government with the assurance that he would set the cops right.

Bassi, however, says the people of the city are “fortunate” that the force is not under the Delhi government. The commissioner maintains that if police falls under the state government, then they would have been forced to work under local pressure.  Kejriwal obviously doesn’t think so. His infamous TV interview in which he referred to the men in khaki as “thulla” – a slang used for referring to policemen – had also left a few policemen, including Bassi, hurt.

Bassi feels the AAP attacks were well-concealed attempts to tell voters that the blame for shocking rapes and crimes lay solely on police. The top cop, too, seemed shrewd enough to time the questioning or arrest of AAP MLAs to give Kejriwal and his team a tough time in the political arena. On an average, an MLA or his family member is booked every 45 days.

Bassi’s tact was at its peak when he avoided a public outburst against the AAP government functionaries while ducking verbal attacks which described his officers and force as “BJP agents” and “Modi Police”.

The Kejriwal government managed to somewhat corner Bassi by highlighting alleged wrongdoings related to cooperative society flats owned by the police chief and his brother, a lawyer.

They were accused of contravening rules and hiding facts regarding properties at Lucky Home Cooperative Group Housing Society and Civil Service Officers Welfare Society.  Bassi, however, distanced himself from the allegations, blunting the ruling party’s attempt to hurt his image.

“The biggest challenge in the last few months was to balance the force’s efficiency with strong attempts by the AAP government to run down Delhi Police,” Bassi has claimed.

But claiming that the MLAs are framed, the AAP says that police were being used as a political weapon by the Central government.

“With the current situation, we expect similar cases in the future as well. We are prepared and will continue to fight for justice,” says spokesperson Raghav Chadha.

The stand-off intensified when police told the Union Home Ministry that senior AAP leaders and volunteers had provoked Rajasthan farmer Gajendra Singh to commit suicide during a party rally in April 2015. Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and senior leader Ashutosh were among those present at the rally.

The AAP-led government also conducted a separate inquiry into the death, but police refused to join the probe calling it illegal.

The differences were also reflected at a public event when Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai openly attacked Bassi’s staff for ‘loot’ and ‘harassment’ of transporters
and drivers. The event was attended by Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander.  

The gruesome stabbing of a 19-year-old girl in Anand Parbat, the alleged custodial death of a man in Seemapuri and police allegedly leaking details of Kejriwal’s security were some other points when the ruling dispensation turned on the heat on Bassi.

Failed dream project Bassi failed to complete some projects he handled in the last five years. As Special Commissioner (Administration), a 5,000-flat residential complex for head constables and constables at north Delhi’s Dhirpur was Bassi’s brainchild.

The construction was supposed to begin in 2013 and finish in 885 days. In 2012, the Rs 1,500 crore project was seen as a huge step to boost the motivational levels of the constabulary. Bassi would have hoped to retire on a high note with its completion.

However, in 2014, a petition was filed before the National Green Tribunal seeking a stay on the construction, alleging that the Ministry of Urban Development illegally changed the land use from ‘district park’ and ‘river and water body’ to ‘residential’ so that the complex could be constructed on the wetland. Currently, the project is way behind schedule. 

Only 18 per cent of head constable and constables live in government accommodation right now.

Bassi’s career
The 1977-batch IPS officer was posted as the Special Commissioner (Administration) before his appointment as Commissioner in August 2013. A Commerce graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, he had cleared Union Public Service Commission examination at the age of 21.

Bassi began his career as Assistant Superintendant of Pondicherry Police in 1980. Since then he has served in various capacities in Delhi and other parts of the country, including Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Goa.

In Delhi Police, Bassi has served as Special Commissioner (Vigilance), Joint Commissioner (Southern Range) and Deputy Commissioner in North and North-East. He also served in Security and the Intelligence units.  

Before the appointment as Special Commissioner (Administration), Bassi was heading the Traffic unit in 2011 and 2012. He previously served as Goa Police Director General (2009-2011) and Chandigarh Police Inspector General (2000-2002).

In plans for his post-retirement life, Bassi has applied for the post of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner. Sources said he has been shortlisted for the post of Information Commissioner and is likely to be appointed on one of the three vacant posts.

“If I get a chance to serve the nation after retirement, I will definitely do it. If I don’t, then I will enjoy myself,” Bassi has told the media.