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The Home Minister with a difference

Those who watch the domestic scene would not fail to notice how Amit Shah has enunciated path-breaking ideas in the vital sphere of internal order and security - steering clear of any ‘political’ attributions

The Home Minister with a difference

The Home Minister with a difference

The arrival of Amit Shah as the Union Home Minister in 2019 sent out clear signals that he would govern with a strong hand - enjoying the complete trust of Prime Minister Narendra Modi - and would not hesitate to set off new policy approaches for safeguarding national interests. He has shown political will, intellectual strength, and full understanding of the separation of powers under the Constitution, in guiding the democratic state's prime responsibility of maintaining law and order through the length and breadth of the nation.

He has proved to be the Home Minister with a difference. Those who watched the domestic scene would not fail to notice how the Home Minister has enunciated path-breaking ideas in the vital sphere of internal order and security - steering clear of any 'political' attributions.

Three of his speeches delivered at crucial events are of seminal importance in terms of defining how a functional democracy must govern the state.

Law and order being a state subject in the Indian Constitution does not detract from the basic requirement of democratic India that citizens must have the benefit of protection of law uniformly across the nation and that the standard of policing must be maintained at a high level throughout the country regardless of the political complexion of the state governments.

In his address during the golden jubilee function of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) in August 2019, Shah had pointed out that peace is a prerequisite for development and emphasised that 'maintenance of internal peace and a stable law and order system are essential for achieving Prime Minster Modi's vision of making India a $5 trillion economy.'

He wanted best police practices to be institutionalised through training so that all law enforcement officials adopt them all over the country. He indicated that a major reform lay in making it clear that the objective of police is primarily to serve the law-abiding people and protect their rights.

He noted the gap existing between the demand and supply of forensic science skills while commending a shift from old methods to modern techniques of policing. Since the Home Minister made a perceptive observation about the shift in the role of administration from what it was in the British times and referred to Sardar Patel's expectations from civil services in Independent India, he was essentially highlighting the role of IAS and IPS in establishing a uniform level of governance in the nation.

Officers of these two national civil services are recruited through a merit-based central examination, trained by the Government of India, and then allocated to different states in proportion with their annual intake on the principle that the officers will be willing to serve in any part of the country.

It is necessary that in the national interest, the Centre should continue to keep close track of the performance of IAS and IPS officers, give protection to them against any arbitrary and unjust punishment sought to be imposed on them by the ruling dispensation of the state for political reasons, and take a hand in the appointment of Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police through a procedure that had recently been prescribed by the Supreme Court itself.

If these important measures of institutionalising a uniform level of administrative governance in the country are to see the light of the day for the first time, it would surely happen under Home Minister Amit Shah.

The landmark address of Shah at the conference of state home ministers convened at Surajkund in Haryana in October last year was devoted to highlighting the importance of Centre-state cooperation in dealing with terrorism that has become the biggest threat to internal security of India.

He called for zero tolerance approach to terrorism and commended the role of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in pushing for 'a total victory' against this threat. He said that the legal framework is being strengthened by amending the NIA and UAPA laws and the territorial jurisdiction of NIA is being extended to enable it to chase the terrorists across states.

Also, the NIA, he disclosed, would be given power to confiscate any property linked to terrorism. The Home Minister also announced that before 2024, anti-terror drive in the country will be further strengthened by establishing NIA branches in all the states.

Shah has got the states to join the Centre in countering terrorism and created legal and organisational infrastructure to ensure that all across the country, there is a seamless drive against terrorists.

In an environment where even terrorism is being viewed with politically tinted glasses, this is a singular achievement attributable to the Home Minister's determination and clarity of approach in tackling matters affecting national security.

The third address of great strategic significance that dealt with the menace of drugs and narcotics damaging India's great demographic dividend in the form of youth power on one hand and sustaining terrorism on the other, was delivered by Shah very recently at the national conference of the heads of Anti-Narcotic Task Force (ANTF) of states, in which he announced the mission of making a 'drug-free India by 2047'.

He called for a team India approach keeping aside political differences, drew attention to the international dimension of this threat and warned against the use of dark net and cryptocurrency in the drugs trade.

He envisaged deployment of drones and satellite imagery to locate illegal drugs cultivation. It is remarkable how the Home Minister lost no time in making the fight against drugs a national endeavour, by directing the states in December 2021 itself to form a dedicated Anti-Narcotic Task Force under the DGP.

The problem did not receive such close attention at the highest levels at the Centre earlier. While directing the national effort to crack down on illegal activities under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the Home Minister made a point of great strategic importance at the ANTF conference when he said that 'those who consume drugs are the victims and those who sell them are the culprits'.

Shah has shown farsightedness in taking cognisance of any threat to internal security appearing on the horizon and initiating a comprehensive national-level response to deal with it.

Following the February 23 incident at Ajnala PS on the outskirts of Amritsar this year in which Amritpal Singh, a self-styled Sikh preacher known for his advocacy of Khalistan, and his supporters had moved brandishing swords and carrying Granth Sahib, storming the premises to press for the release of an aide of the preacher detained there in a case of kidnapping and injured many policemen, Shah called Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to Delhi to review the law and order situation in the state and directed that Central and state security agencies worked together to deal with the emerging security threats.

The Chief Minister briefed the Home Minister on the incident - there was an impression of avoidable delay on the part of AAP government in initiating action against the ongoing activities of Amritpal Singh - and Shah assured Mann of full support, including the deployment of paramilitary forces.

The active pursuit by Punjab Police and Central agencies led to the arrest of Amritpal Singh from a gurdwara at Rode village in Moga district - the home place of late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale - after he had evaded the police as a trained Pak agent for several weeks.

It is known that the Pak ISI has planned to revive the Khalistan movement in Punjab and the Centre will have to put this threat on top of its security agenda in the days to come. Home Minister Amit Shah is already closely monitoring the situation.

(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau)

Dc Pathak
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