Seemant Kumar IPS : ‘People-friendly Police’ is his dream

Nov 14, 2010

Responding to the persistent demands of the people of this district the Government of Karnataka set up the Police Commissionerate in January 2010 in Dakshina Kannada District.  Mangalore is the fourth Commissionerate to be set up by the Government of Karnataka next to Bangalore, Hubli-Dharwad and Mysore  and  in April 2010, senior IPS officer Seemanth Kumar Singh assumed charge as the first DIG-ranked Police Commissioner of Mangalore. 

Vested with magisterial powers otherwise exercised only by the District Commissioner or the Tahsildar, the setting up of the Commissionerate was long overdue in Dakshina Kannada which had witnessed a turbulent period of strife a few years ago.  A Police Commissionerate is bestowed with powers to take a decision on matters aimed at maintaining law and order and therefore is directly responsible for permitting processions, enforcing of Goonda Act, Arms Act and fixing time limits and deadlines for wine shops and live bands in areas coming under its jurisdiction.  Lack of magisterial powers for the police was a  major impediment in resorting to swift action whenever the situation called for.

As we all know Mangalore, in the past few years  has attained notoriety as a communally sensitive city following the headline grabbing incidents of the past few years which have besmirched its image internationally.  These mucky incidents might have prompted the government to respond to the demand to set up the Commissionerate and  40-year-old Singh, an officer of the 1996 IPS batch and native of Ranchi, Jharkhand, with jurisdiction over 42 police stations coming under erstwhile Panambur and Mangalore Divisions, assumed charge as the Commissioner. 

Though there has been communal amity in Mangalore  in last two years, Singh  assumed charge at a critical juncture with the onerous responsibility of bringing Mangalore back to its former glory perched on his shoulders.  With the morale of the police also lying low after the nasty incidents following the attack on places of worship,  he had the additional responsibility of lifting the morale of the police force which was at its lowest ebb.

This posting in Mangalore has been like a homecoming to Seemant Kumar Singh who had served earlier in the city as Superintendent of Police. In a detailed interview with  the amiable and soft-spoken Seemant Kumar Singh spoke at length on diverse issues concerning the district, the challenges ahead and his efforts to build people-friendly police force in Dakshina Kannada district.  

Q.  You served as a SP in Mangalore in the beginning of the   new millennium.  Do you find the city has undergone major changes as compared to earlier? 

A. As it is rightly said this has been like a home coming to me as I had served as the SP in Mangalore for possibly the longest tenure of 3 years and 3 months between December 2000 and February 2004. I am familiar with the city and the people here. As SP my role was different from what it is today.  The challenges of maintaining law and order and communal harmony were there earlier also. But Mangalore has grown as a big city in terms of population, development and with that there has been a proportionate increase in crimes and other evils which are part of a growing city.  The real estate sector here  has witnessed exponential  growth with the apartment culture catching on with the people in a big way. The city now has more outsiders  due to the  sizeable presence I T industries.  

Q. Mangalore has attained international infamy as a hot bed of communal conflicts. How are you facing this major challenge of maintaining harmony?

Ans. Maintaining communal harmony is no doubt a major challenge as the city was quite prone to violence at the slightest pretexts sometime ago.   But communal disturbance here is not as severe as is generally projected nationally.  From the police point of view, I feel  for every problem there is a solution and that solution takes time to show desired results. People also want a peaceful solution to issues of conflict and the police and the district administration can respond positively to any overtures of peace process.  With  the active  cooperation and support of the people any problematic situation can be brought under control.  The people of Mangalore have responded positively to our initiative of peace  and the results are there for everyone to see.  Majority of the people want peace and  normalcy and no one wants disturbance as they have realized such conflicts are detrimental to the general health of the people.  On realizing this people themselves started taking initiative for holding peace talks. That made our task effortless. 

Q. You are saying that the peace initiative came from the people?

Ans.  Certainly yes.  When the leaders of the major communities started holding peace talks the police acted as the facilitators. Finally the leaders of the major communities started distributing pamphlets in mandirs, masjids and churches and reached out to their own community people asking them to maintain peace and we seized that initiative.  We usually take  a ground level approach to find a solution to any problem.  When the initiative comes from the police it takes time to show results.  But when it comes  from the people themselves it makes our job easier. In fact we were getting feedback from intelligence sources that people wanted peace  and harmony and we facilitated this. 

Q. Are you saying that the people were fed up  having  realized the utility of such conflicts?

Ans.  The very fact that the initiative came from the people means that people  did realize though a trifle late,  the futility of such senseless violence which stalls the process of development of the entire district.  Moreover, educational institutions are the backbone of the economy in Dakshina Kannada and due to the disharmony there was a decline in the intake of outside students in these institutions in the last 2 to 3 years.  Even a decline of 5% meant a big cut in the profit margins of these institutions and it threatened their existence.  Communal conflict always has a telling effect on the business prospects.  Earlier all these people were adopting a neutral stand and were not  even ready to  condemn any incidents of communal violence as if they cared a damn for it.  But when they began to feel the heat of dwindling profits threatening their survival they realized the necessity of maintaining peace and amity. Though they should have done much earlier it was not too late either.  

Q.  Is it true that the tag of Mangalore being communally sensitive is on the  wane?

Ans.   The notoriety of Mangalore as a breeding ground of communal discord is slowly vanishing and the credit should go to the combined efforts of the people and the police.  On seizing the initiative from the people  who were fed up with an overdose of violence and media glare  the police took out road marches to instill confidence  and sent a strong signal to the miniscule minority from all sections who were bent upon fishing in troubled waters and did not want the peace process to succeed.  We also had resorted to preventive arrests and all these measures enervated those who tried to stoke the communal factor.   We were firm yet polite in discharging our duties.

Q. Are you satisfied with the police efforts to ensure peace in the district?

Ans. The measures we have undertaken to ensure normalcy in Mangalore have been appreciated by our higher ups. Taking clue from the feedback we have received and the action taken by facilitating dialogue we have brought the leaders of the various communities together to sit and find a solution.  The peace talks facilitated by us has come in for great appreciation and Mangalore approach was replicated in other parts of the state wherever there was trouble. 

Q. It has been almost seven months since you took over as the Commissioner. How has been the experience so far?

A.  Dakshina Kannada has this peculiar population composition as most of the people here are educated,  cultured and financially rich irrespective of caste, creed or religion. They never fail to  challenge each other whenever there is a confrontation.  Now the people have realized that it is a meaningless exercise to challenge and they want normalcy as conflict affects everything and everyone.  The people are reciprocal to the initiatives taken by the police department aimed at the welfare and development of the district. As the Commissioner I have certain magisterial powers that enable me take quick action if and when the need arises.  Earlier procedural delays or lack of co-ordination used to stall the process of development or prevent quick action. Now I have more responsibility and the police  department has a direct say in the developmental aspects of the district.  

Q.  What about the moral police creating discord every now and then and there were two back to back incidents just two months back?

Ans. Of course, the self-styled moral police were creating havoc to some extent but we have acted swiftly in this regard and  dealt with the problem with an iron hand.  We have identified the informers, the culprits, the source of information,  from where it originated and other relevant details that helped us zero in on the trouble makers.  By acting swiftly we have sent a strong message to everyone that we will not spare any cahoots who take law in their hands or instigate chaos. Moreover those who are caught causing trouble are booked under the severest of the sections.  Once these people  know the difficulty of coming out of it  and undergo the torture of spending their valuable  time, money and energy to attend court cases,  they will never indulge in such nuisances again. There is no need for the police to hit such people or get mired in the controversy  of human rights violations. We only need to open the law books to  see what all sections they can be charged  under and allow the law to take its own course.   This is safer for the police department also.   

Q.  Apart form communal harmony what are the major challenges  the police have on  hand in Mangalore?

Ans. Mangalore has grown enormously and now traffic is a major problem faced by the city which has witnessed a ten-fold increase in the number of vehicles in the last ten years. According to the data collected from the RTO there are about 3 lakh private vehicles other than buses in the city, whereas there has not been a proportionate increase in the road space. Dakshina Kannada district was known for its  private bus service and people were dependent on buses for commuting.  Now, only the poor people travel by bus and there is an influx of private vehicles  on the road which often leads of congestion and traffic jams. 

Q. You have said that the Commissionerate has a direct say in the development of the city.  What steps are you taking to solve the traffic problem which is assuming gigantic proportions?

Ans. We are working towards finding a short and long term solution to this pressing problem.  Short term measures include ensuring road discipline, completion of flyovers and road widening.  The Kottara  junction has a major traffic problem and this  flyover will be ready within a month.  Similarly completion of Kavoor flyover is also on our priority list. We are working in tandem with the National Highway authorities, the city corporation and MESCOM.  Long term strategy includes setting up satellite bus stations and banning movement of buses in  some roads in the heart of the city.  We have also identified some parking places within the city to solve  the problem.   For example we have identified that there is lot of parking space in front of the Town Hall.  The area including the park can be developed into a multi-layered parking space without disturbing the existing Mahatma Gandhi statue,  to solve the parking problem Hampankatta area.  We also have plans to have CCTV in about 15   identified places in the city to have an aerial view and if there is a traffic block it can be monitored and traffic can be diverted suitably. 

Q.  There is lot of commotion about the businessmen facing  threats from the underworld.  What action has been taken to  neutralize  such threats?

Ans.   There is no specific  threat as such from the underworld and one should not create unnecessary panic or give importance to such perceived threats. Any underworld activity is usually executed through local rowdy elements and outside persons will not come here to commit any crimes or extortions. Just a fortnight ago there was intelligence report about some underworld elements trying to ferment trouble and we swiftly got into action to annihilate any such attempts.  We have been trying to identify the local rowdy elements who are easy targets for the underworld and put them in place.  The police want to assure the people that  there is no threat and if at all any one is facing any threats they should come to us and we will provide protection to them.  We have noted down some local rowdy elements and re-opened some old pending cases of even small offence against them.  We have found links of those local people who  were giving vital information that enabled underworld elements to create fear among the people.  We have also come to know through intelligence sources that some of the so called underworld calls were not genuine and were planted just to divert attention.

Q.  You have stressed the need to have people-friendly policing to bridge the gap between the common people and the police.. Any specific action in that direction?

Ans.  Unless and until the police become impartial it is difficult to create that goodwill.  I have sent a strong message down the line that we will not tolerate any impartiality and we have got green signal from the district administration to that effect.  The police also have realized the need of being  impartial as after all they are doing their job. We have got the confidence of good leaders and people who want peace and prosperity and we are using them against the bad elements.  We are aiming at total people-friendly policing and the involvement of the public in everything  we are doing.  By doing that we can build a good rapport which will make our task easier. People of this district  are receptive to changes and they sincerely appreciate when we do anything good.

Q.  Whenever something goes wrong police are the first to face the music.  What steps have you taken to keep their morale high?

Ans.  Frankly speaking policing is a thankless job.  If everything goes right  it is ok.  But the moment something goes wrong we get brickbats and we become the favorite whipping boys for everyone.  But  the credit or  appreciation for the good work done should go to the lower most rank as they are the ones who face the reality on the ground.   Police job is such we always create enemies while solving any problem or when we compromise trying to amicably solve a problem.  So now our aim is to have  people as ‘friends of police’ and we have been working in that direction with all our might.  It is only a matter of time before the people feel the change. 

by Florine Roche
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Comment on this article

  • Nelson Dsouza, Karkala/Riyadh

    Wed, Nov 17 2010

    Dear Mr. Seemanth Kumar, Good luck and try your best to implement what ever good plans you have..then only you can acheive atleast half of it. Yes, peoples trust and support is a must and if you can win over them, half of your Job made easy. try to clean up the corruption and partiality in the department as a first step..All the Best.

  • Raj Saldanha, Mangalore/ Bahrain

    Wed, Nov 17 2010

    That will be the day.

  • Agnel Dias, Kundapura/Ksa

    Tue, Nov 16 2010

    Wellcome sir and Wish you good luck...We are hurt,hope will not again..

  • Arun Kamath, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 15 2010

    Despite all this talk, nothing will materialize. Police in India still behave like British era and more like thugs. Corruption and insecurity are the other factors. Public must be vigilant and alert. For a start let Seemant manage the traffic at Mangalore with a human face. Otherwise its bari mathu no work.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    It is too late, but at least at
    the late hours, somebody got the
    vision to reform the police force
    as "people friendly". The British
    police mentality of " we are the law
    and we are above the laws" became
    the norm of the police department,
    especially in the southern side
    of the nation.

    They are law keepers, but when
    act like lawbreakers, that is a
    dangerous predicament.

  • Alwyn, Canada

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    good luck officer. Please do your best to eliminate terrorism, communal goondas, corrupt officials who commit murders, raps and use political support and bribe police to protect them from convictions. Even after jailed they enjoy jail better life than their own home comport of having great facilities availed inside the jail.

  • Louis D'Souza, Udupi/Kuwait

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    Wish you good luck n God bless you.

  • joegonsalves, Mangalore

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    The appointment of Mr. Seemath Singh as Commissioner of Police, Mangalore division is indeed welcome move. I have known the SOFT SPOKEN Seemanth Singh for several years - first as a Supt. of Police and now as a Commissioner. Having said that he is soft spoken one should not forget the fact that if need be he can be strict and very strict too. That is the trait in this gentleman which has gone a long way to spell out his SUCCESS STORY. What is great about Mr.Singh is the fact that he is a PEOPLES' MAN. One can go to him direct with any problem and one can be sure that he will get a patient hearing and sometimes an immediate solution.

    With regard to the traffic problem which has reached the height during recent times I cannot help commenting that a close watch should be kept on the erring bus drivers who tend to take the law in their own hands. It is a common sight to see these buses halt at unauthorized places to pick up passengers. It is very common to see these buses speeding to overtake other buses in an attempt to be at the bus halts before others to pick up passengers. With regard to rickshaws they overtake for any sides and an innocent car driver does not stand a chance if by chance a rickshaw hits a car as a dozen colleagues will join and try to put the blame on the car driver. I am sure Mr. Singh will take remedial measures to set the menace right.

    Joe Gonsalves

  • praveen dsouza , mangalore

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    dear sir please give extra class to your police regarding public relation haw to behave with public...

  • Alwyn, Mangalore - USA

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    The police are persons empowered to enforce the law, protect property and reduce civil disorder. Their powers include the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with police services of a state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility.
    It is every citizen must think when it comes about religion issue. No one can satisfy Almighty God by killing, beating, insulting, or condemning with vulgar language to other faithful person. We must see the common things in all religion like water, Parents, Truth, Helping to needy, prayer beads, and many more. But it is never said in any religion to kill or hate others.
    We all must understand Police person struggle and their great effort to the man kind. We are able to stand on the road for few minutes but the police persons are standing the whole day and night to safe guard us. It is every ones responsibilities to show respect and cooperate with them to have peace and order. So every citizen can live happily.
    Police authorities must conduct a surprise check as well they must deploy secret persons to rule out any type illegal activities are going on. It is really very stressful job to all Police officers to maintain the law under influence of politics and religion pressure. Hope and let us pray for them.

  • ALWYN, Neermarga, Mangalore

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    Dear Mr. Seemant Kumar we welcome u. but small request pls. act like a Indian ( kamal hassan ). pls. don't. bend for 3rd class politician. Thank U.

  • Ruchir Agarwal, mangalore

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    The role of police in some indian movies is not v encouraging.Police are shown as commedians and sometimes corroupt .An instant can be seen in the recent super hitr commedy now showing wheren the police chief is shown as a commedian.Is all this for the immage of the police?

  • Nazeer Uppinangady, Dubai

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    very nice interview i am big fan of Seemanth Kumar IPS. All the very best Sir...communal harmony should kick out from the Mangalore...

  • yusuf, mata / dubai

    Sun, Nov 14 2010

    Dear Sir, u r right, Then only people will support you. God bless u to do this, Good luck


    Sat, Nov 13 2010

    Seemant Kumarji, may God bless u to continue your good work. All the best.

  • basheer, Moodbidri

    Sat, Nov 13 2010

    Wish you good luck

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