By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Jan 4 (SocialNews.XYZ) In an unprecedented move in the state police administration, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday appointed senior IPS officer and Additional Director General of Police Deven Bharati as the Special Commissioner of Police for Mumbai, as per an official announcement.
The post of Special Commissioner of Police, Mumbai has been created for the first time by the state government. The present Commissioner of Police is Vivek Phansalkar, appointed in July 2022.
Bharti, an IPS officer of the 1994 batch, has earlier held several top assignments including Joint Commissioner of Police, Additional Commissioner of Police, head of Maharashtra ATS, and Joint Managing Director of Maharashtra State Security Corporation.
As per a government notification, the new Special Commissioner of Police (Bharti) will function below the Mumbai Commissioner of Police (Phansalkar), and supervise and oversee the works of all the Joint Commissioners of Police.
The state government's decision has created a flutter in state police circles with apprehensions that this could lead to a "dual centre of power" and "clash of interests", especially since the key responsibility areas are not specified for the new incumbent, besides raising many other questions.
A former DGP-level officer, preferring anonymity, observed that "political wisdom behind the decision" is not clear but it could prove detrimental to the overall interests of the elite Mumbai Police which enjoys a global reputation.
Slamming the move of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis government, the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) said that this is an indicator of the power struggle at the political levels, particularly with the upcoming elections to the BMC and other major civic bodies.
"This is an attempt by Fadnavis (who holds the Home portfolio) to create his own 'parallel system' to divide the highly disciplined Mumbai Police force," Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said.
NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said the move lacks "rationale" and wondered if the government will consider appointing a Special Chief Secretary for the state, or a Special Municipal Commissioner for Mumbai, or even a Special Governor in the state to reduce the burden of the incumbents.
Flaying the move, Shiv Sena-UBT spokesperson Kishore Tiwari said that since the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BSS-BJP) regime is at a standstill with just 20 ministers holding dozens of departments, Shinde-Fadnavis should seriously contemplate on a 'Special CM' and 'Special Deputy CM' to lessen their workload.
Former Additional Deputy Commissioner, Maharashtra State Intelligence Department Shirish Inamdar suspects this could be a prelude to split the Mumbai Commissionerate into the city and suburbs, given the huge expanse of the country's commercial capital.
"This situation, akin to two swords in once scabbard, has the potential to create massive clashes, lead to a dual loyalty syndrome in the rank and file and result in groupism, indiscipline and loss of authority," said a concerned Inamdar.
NCP national spokesperson Clyde Crasteo said the move will result in a "checknut" in the police department and pointedly asked: "Has the government lost confidence in the current CoP (Phansalkar) to appoint a Special CoP below him, is the decision acceptable to all, and will it now be implemented in other Police Commissionerates in Maharashtra."
Terming the move as "wrong and unacceptable" Londhe asked whether the stalled government will even divide the governance system to appoint Special Collectors for all districts, Special Superintendents of Police', etc to defraud the people of Maharashtra for their political ambitions.
Tiwari and Tapase wonder that if the Special Commissioner of Police will oversee the work of the other Joint CoPs, "then what will the Commissioner (Phansalkar) do", and warn that it can hit the morale of the entire police force.
Other former officers also questioned whether this post will be a permanent one or only "one-time situation or individual specific", it will be for how long, and whether it would be replicated at all levels.
The Mumbai Police's origins are traced to 1661, and the present formalised system of Commissioners of Police started in 1864.
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