Rakesh Asthana, a 1984 batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, is serving as the Commissioner of Delhi Police. As police commissioner, he has introduced many reforms in the functioning of the force to make it more responsive to the grievances of citizens. In an interview with Anjali Bhatia, the police chief dwelt at length on his new assignment.
Q. This is your 10th month in Delhi Police. You might have faced many challenges, ups, and downs… How do you see your overall experience to date working with the police force?
A. Delhi being the capital of the nation is always bustling with activity. The Delhi Police has been the backbone of the city’s life looking after the maintenance of law and order, regulating heavy traffic, and ensuring the safety and security of citizens, VVIPs, and vital installations. As the primary law enforcement agency of the capital city, Delhi Police tirelessly works in preserving and enhancing this unique canvas guided by its defining principles i.e. Shanti, Seva, and Nyaya as its motto goes. My experience with DP is very satisfying. I have, with the support of my fellow officers and personnel, to the best of my abilities, ensured that Delhi remains a safe, secure, and citizen-friendly capital city of the country.
Q. What challenges have you faced since you are new to the Delhi Police system?
A.I never felt I was new to the Delhi Police system. As I have mentioned on several occasions, everybody witnessed during the pandemic to what extent DP could rise to the occasion to not only ensure a strict lockdown but also present a humane face while extending a helping hand to the needy and distressed. I could easily adapt to this new setup due to the cooperation and commitment of our officers/men.
Q. Under your leadership, many changes have been seen in the working of Delhi Police like eight-hour shifts and weekly off. Under pilot projects, many structural reforms including the merging of PCR units with police stations have taken place. How did your men take to all these changes and what was the impact of these changes on the overall policing?
A. Various structural changes (reforms) have been made as per the contemporary needs to serve the citizens better. The most significant measure taken in furtherance of the perspective plan implementation is
the restructuring and reorganisation of various units of Delhi Police into functional verticals, designated as divisions of the police force, headed by special commissioners of police. A total of 14 such verticals have been formed bringing about alignment and synergy between units having similar functions leading to expeditious decision-making and more efficient resource utilization. The welfare of the staff was my top-most priority as improved satisfaction levels lead to an efficient delivery system. Presently, there is complete transparency in transfer posting and an open house is held every Friday, where our personnel can share their grievances directly with the CP. Fresh blood has been infused at ground level with increasing strength of women and first-time SHOs.
Q. What important measures you have taken to control crime in the capital of India?
A. Another very significant structural transformation was a merger of PCR with police stations and the separation of investigation and law & order duties. The police control room vehicles and manpower, which earlier acted as centrally operated mobile emergency response teams were merged with police stations, where, in addition to emergency response, they now participate in preventive patrolling and public order management. This change has led to a substantial increase in the human resource availability at the police station level, an increase in the number of investigating officers, and an increase in the fleet of vehicles and other operational logistics, resulting in faster response to distress calls, more effective control over street crimes, expeditious disposal of cases under investigation and better availability of personnel at police station level for essential policing duties. Districts have been directed to coordinate with special units and ensure a crackdown on organised crime. Instructions are clear to nab the kingpins and ensure maximum recovery. A clear message has been given to involving the community to work alongside the police.
Q. How secure are women, children and aged people in Delhi today?
A. Safety and security of women, children, elders and other vulnerable sections have always been a top priority. District heads and beat level staff are directed to make a direct connection with such sections and indulge them in social activities. A maximum number of women have been deployed as SHOs, and District DCsP. Fast track and scientific investigation of cases of crime against women resulted in high conviction rates in sexual harassment cases. Pink booths have been made operational in areas with a high footfall of females. Weak mobile signal zones
are also being identified and taken up with telecom operators for improvements in signal availability.
Q. What are the important measures you have taken to control cybercrime?
A. A specialised unit i.e. Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) has been set up to handle all complex and sensitive cases of cybercrime. The unit is equipped with a state-of-the-art forensic lab with the capability of extracting data from all devices. Besides, cyber police stations were notified in each police district in Delhi to effectively collect digital evidence and better appreciation of digital evidence in cyber and other investigations. At the same time, the district cyber police stations are also able to work more closely with schools, colleges, residents, and market associations, for more intensive awareness and outreach programmes for inculcating safe cyber habits.
Q. Delhi recently witnessed riots. How difficult it was to manage the situation?
A. Mischief makers are being identified and dealt with as per law. Both the communities have been staying together peacefully for many years and there are no law and order issues.
Q. Delhi has always been the target of drug peddlers. What steps have been taken to control narco-terrorism in Delhi?
A. Drug abuse by youth is an area of concern for society. We spread awareness about its ill-effects through our community policing programmes. Besides, narco cells have been established in all the districts that work in close coordination with the crime (narcotics) unit. This year itself, we have seized around 3,000 Kg contraband (including 27 kg charas, 7 kg opium, 2655 kg ganja, 62 kg smack, 60 kg poppy, 2.5 kg cocaine, and amphetamines) with the arrest of 694 persons till 31 May.
Q. The special cells of the Delhi Police have been very active. What important measures have been taken to stop global terrorism and to keep the capital of India safe?
A. The special cells have been re-organised into specialised verticals focused on countering foreign-sponsored groups, drug cartels, illegal arms traders, and other organised syndicates to attend to the challenges associated with cross-border terror networks, illicit drugs trade, and increased radicalisation of youth, and use of dark-net and other technologies for subversive activities.
A new unit NTOC (Narco-Terror, Organised Crime) has been created in the special cell for action against the financial aspects of narcotics syndicates and their networks used for facilitating, perpetrating, and hiding proceeds of crime earned from acts of narco-terrorism.
Q. What is your message to Delhi’s citizens?
A. I want to assure the citizens of Delhi that their safety and security are the top priority of the Delhi Police. Making Delhi Police approachable for their grievances is a key focus area for me. Many steps have been taken in this regard like FIR, and Integrated Complaint Management System in addition to other citizen-centric services where we have reached out to the people of Delhi.
Delhi Police is also upgrading itself as a tech-savvy force with strong logistics and cutting-edge technologies along with an increased focus on cyber-crime. Social media is now being used to disseminate information about our services and answer queries regarding policing on various topics. We are engaging with the people of Delhi and I invite the people of Delhi to be our partners in making Delhi a better place. I aim to create a more proactive approach instead of a reactive approach in policing which is people-friendly, community-driven and effective in law enforcement.