Caring Didi, strict boss: Mamata with police

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has projected the image of an employee-friendly boss towards the state police.

Kolkata: From storming a police barrack to inspect their living conditions, to dropping in unannounced at a police hospital, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has projected the image of an employee-friendly boss towards the state police. But she has one clear message for them - work impartially.

Ironically, it was the same police force which once dragged her out of the state secretariat Writers` Buildings for protesting in front of then chief minister Jyoti Basu`s office.

In her more than three-decades long role as Bengal`s chief opposition, Mamata has had many brushes with the police.

But all that was forgotten on the morning of May 25, five days after being sworn-in, when Banerjee visited the police barracks at the Alipore Bodyguard Lines in south Kolkata and personally surveyed the living condition of police personnel.

She went inside the barracks, enquired about their food and lodging arrangements, and listened to their grievances - probably the first chief minister to do so. Hours later, she asked the city police top brass to go ahead with their construction plans for adding to the accommodation facilities for police personnel.

On June 2, she paid a surprise visit to the Kolkata Police hospital at Bhowanipore and interacted with the doctors, patients and their relatives.

But all these steps notwithstanding, West Bengal`s first woman Chief Minister has also taken major administrative decisions.

The police set-up has been revamped, officers have been reshuffled in her bid to improve the pro-people image of the force, and strict instructions have been issued for a major crackdown on stockpiling of illegal arms.

The Trinamool Congress chief has also asked the police officers not to tolerate political interference.

"If any political leader interferes, you should inform my office directly," was her first message to the senior officers.

She repeated this stand at all later meetings.

One of the first major steps of the new government was to wind up the separate security directorate in the state for overseeing VIP security. The directorate, formed last year, was also entrusted with overall security of the city and the suburbs to prevent Mumbai-like terror strikes.

The directorate has been merged with the existing police directorate.

Two police superintendents of Howrah and Maoist-affected West Midnapore districts, who were accused of bias towards the Left Front by her party, were transferred and put on compulsory waiting.

There was also a major reshuffle of the officers-in-charge of city police stations.

"So far, whatever steps she has taken, from reshuffling of police officers to revamping police set-up, have been well executed. She has not made any major reshuffle in the top brass but has openly instructed them to work impartially. In the near future, people will get to know if her initiatives were pro-people or not," said Amiya Samanta, former director general of police.

Areas of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), under the jurisdiction of the state police, are being brought under the city police for better policing and traffic management.

Kolkata has a city police commissionerate, which so far manned 100 out of 141 wards of the KMC, while the rest were under the state police directorate.

Banerjee has also ordered an inquiry into tapping of telephones of political leaders and scribes during the preceding Left Front regime.

At a high-level meeting with the chief secretary, the home secretary and senior police officers, she made it clear that the union home ministry`s modalities on telephone tapping have to be followed in future.

Welcoming Banerjee`s efforts to raise a pro-people force, Kiriti Roy, secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Human Rights Protection Forum of Bengal), said: "Her initiatives are good, but it is too early to comment. If her ideas, like setting up citizen committees in every district comprising people from all spheres to advise the police, materialise, it will be good for the people."