In his first interview to Greater Kashmir, son of the soil SSP Srinagar Rakesh Balwal (IPS) who hails from Udhampur has a history of already being enmeshed in counter terrorism apparatus of Kashmir from his previously held three and half years’ experience at NIA, opens up on the challenges that Srinagar Police is tackling
Q) What is the major challenge that you are facing?
Ans: Terrorism remains a major concern, though as compared to last few years, graph of terror incidents has gone down, but the targeted killings, attacking non-combatants by terrorists remains possibility. Incidents of hand grenade lobbing shows that the new recruits or new age terrorists lack skills to carry out stand-of or spectacular attacks, collateral damage in grenade incidents is on higher side, as has been seen recently that civilians have been injured and even killed in such attacks, but this also shows sheer frustration of terrorists wherein to mark their presence they are resorting to such attacks. Stopping youngsters from joining terror ranks remains one of the highest priorities. De-radicalisation of OGWs/terror associates is of utmost importance. As SSP of Srinagar, I can say with all confidence that I may command, we shall handle the issue in the most effective manner.
Q) What steps have you taken to reach out to the citizens of Srinagar?
Ans: Regarding Public outreach, I would say that, this has been also been among my top priorities in tenure so far. Somehow due to counter-terrorism ecosystem, this important facet of policing gets neglected. We have to understand that Police is nothing but public in uniform. In Srinagar we have dedicated certain hours in a day wherein public can come for grievance redressal. In my office also, I have kept 2 hours exclusively for meeting public i.e. 12 noon to 2 pm every day. At the level of Zonal SPs, SDPOs and Police Stations, this facet is given due emphasis. The measures have been very successful, innovations like Thana diwas, Police-Public cooperation group meetings have seen huge participation from all sections of society. There are dedicated helplines for reporting information about narcotics, crime against women, gambling and corruption. The response by public has been outstanding. Two dedicated women safety squads are operational in Srinagar city for taking care of women in distress if any.
Q) How is the Srinagar Police tackling Drug Peddling?
Ans: Drug addiction is a danger wherein I would candidly admit that performance of Srinagar Police has not been outstanding, though we have been trying a lot, many drug peddlers have been arrested, more than two dozen have been booked under PSA act. But, still drug abuse among youth is rampant. This problem calls for a holistic approach wherein all stakeholders like police, administration, Medical fraternity, NGOs, civil society has to join hands for its eradication. There is a drug-addiction centre of J&K Police at Eidgah, Srinagar which is yielding good results. Parents in particular and society in general have a role in ensuring that youth don't relapse back to drug once reformed, they should be accepted as dignified members once reformed.
Q4) What is the overall situation of crime-related activities in Srinagar?
Ans: Srinagar city is a metropolitan city, all urban crimes ranging from thefts, property-related crimes, cyber-crimes, crime against women are present in Srinagar. What really surprised me was the prevalence of crime against women, even though Srinagar is close-knit society. Harassment, stalking and even molestation/rape is being witnessed which I never expected. My emphasis has been on ensuring 100% reporting of such crimes and its immediate detection and ensuring justice to victim within realms of law. I have put emphasis on scientific investigation wherein strong evidences are collected during investigation, so that guilty is caught and innocent is not framed.
Q5) What efforts have you taken to curb corruption in Srinagar Police?
Ans: Srinagar being the face of policing in J&K, impeccable integrity of officers at important positions is something which is totally not negotiable. It is seen that in conflict theatres, there is a tendency wherein acts of financial misdemeanour are at times condoned for operational needs or expediency of works, my focus has been to ensure that officers are held accountable for all their acts and anything adverse reported about officers doesn't go under the wraps. Integrity, according to me, is the top most quality in any officer, even higher than competence and efficiency. When we are sure that the motive of an officer is upholding rule of law, only then we can believe him/her, and if personal aggrandisement is primary motive of any officer, then that trust won't be there at all. Further integrity has rarely been a priority at cutting edge level in conflict prone areas.
There have been certain difficulties in short term like inertia of some vested interests but by and large significant improvements have been made, but I am sure that in medium and long term this approach of accountability and clean policing will yield results for better policing based on public trust as well, as the eternal saying goes "Honesty is the Best Policy".