The stinking feeling

IT’s a cesspool of corruption that has been laid bare by a series of murky developments in Maharashtra, beginning with the recovery of an explosives-laden SUV near Mukesh Ambani’s residence on February 25. Both the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government and the Mumbai Police are facing a crisis of credibility. Politicians and police officers are usually inseparable bedfellows, but when things go horribly wrong, it’s natural for them to bay for each other’s blood. Days after he was shunted out as the Mumbai Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh hurled a ‘letter bomb’ alleging that state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh used to call Sachin Waze and other cops to his official residence and give them a ‘target’ of Rs 100 crore per month to be collected from bars, restaurants and other establishments. Param Bir Singh has now moved the Supreme Court, seeking a CBI probe into the ‘abuse’ of position by Deshmukh. These are serious allegations levelled by a senior cop against a minister, and the least that the government can do is to ensure a free, fair and time-bound investigation. Even as the minister’s position in the Cabinet has become untenable, the former Police Commissioner owes an explanation about why he chose to keep mum about the alleged wrongdoings before his abrupt transfer.

With the Centre-state tussle intensifying by the day, things are going to get messier. The National Investigation Agency is probing the SUV case as well as the mysterious death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran, while the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad claims to have got some important leads. These agencies need to avoid stepping on each other’s toes so that the knotty affair can be unravelled at the earliest. Political pressure exerted by the Central and state governments can undermine the entire investigation.

The whole sordid saga has turned the spotlight on the nexus between the political class and the police force. Both are well advised to do introspection, followed by course correction, if they are keen to regain the trust of the public. It’s clear that the Augean stables can’t be cleaned unless there is zero tolerance to corruption.

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