Anoted social activist, AMOD KANTHhad a remarkable career as an IPS officer in Delhi and other states of the country.

His last two significant assignments were in Goa and Arunachal Pradesh as Director-General. He founded an NGO, Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society, which works for protection, development and rehabilitation of marginalised children and women.

It runs various programmes relating to street and working children, child protection and juvenile justice, prevention of trafficking of children and women, and skills and vocational training.

A recipient of the President’s Police medal for meritorious service, Kanth is currently also serving as a member-coordinator of the NITI-CSO Standing Committee of the NITI Aayog.

In an interview with RAKESH KUMAR, Kanth shares his thoughts on a range of issues besides touching upon his latest book, a memoir about his stint as an IPS officer.

Excerpts:

Q. Could you outline the work and objectives of Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society?

A. The organisation came into existence in 1988. It was purely on the call of duty because at that time I happened to be a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Delhi.

In the 80s, Delhi had several law and order problems and there were many serious crimes and counter-terrorism activities. That was the time when many children were lost and found. Adults could have been taken care of easily but not the children, who came into the care of Delhi Police.

Daily we used to get 30 to 40 missing children in our police stations. But we didn’t have any facilities. Therefore, it was a necessity to create a programme in which these children could be cared for. This is how Prayas came into existence.

One day, there was a big fire in Jahangir Puri’s slum area. Then LG of Delhi H L Kapur asked me to accompany him to the site. I had nothing to investigate there but I came across a large number of children who had became homeless after their huts were gutted.

That gave me another reason and a big opportunity to start Prayas. The idea of Prayas was to look after children who went the wrong way, children who were neglected and those who needed care and protection.

Q. How do you look at the evolution of Prayas over the last three decades?

A. Today, Prayas is one of the largest voluntary organisations in the country as it employs a pool of professionals — social workers, health workers and community workers.

We have 200 centres in 10 states including Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andaman and Nicobar Island, and directly serve 50,000 marginalised children. We also have 38 home shelters which include juvenile homes, homes for homeless children and homes for homeless people.

We also have a health programme, child protection programme, skill development programme and a large scale disaster management programme.

Q. What are the challenges that the voluntary sector is currently facing in India?

A. Today, the voluntary sector is at a crossroads. A lot of new rules and regulations like FCRA are introduced every other day. Let me tell you, during the Covid time, these voluntary organisations did a very good job. Throughout this period,

I was myself on the field. We provided meals to 1.65 lakh people during the Covid time and also gave shelter to 25,000 children and adults in shelter homes. We were running a primary health centre and a quarantine centre in Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar.

Around 3,000 Prayas workers, working in different capacities are on the frontline. However, the voluntary sector is facing a lot of problems in terms of funding and support from the government. I think we should take care of this sector.

Q. You have just written the first volume of your memoir, ‘Khaki in Dust Storm-Police Diaries Book-1’, about your journey as an IPS officer through the tumultuous period between 1980 and 1991. How would you describe it and what compelled you to write this book?

A. Throughout my career, I had a habit of writing a diary. During my tenure, I had a chance to handle many high profile cases. This first volume which starts from the 1980s, talks about those times.

According to me and some media also, the 1980s was the most violent decade of the country after Partition. This was the time when extremism and terrorism grew exponentially. We seriously faced internal problems in Punjab. In 1984, after Operation Blue Star and Indira Gandhi’s assassination, a riot took place in Delhi.

In this book I have talked about the developments which led to Operation Blue Star, situation after assassination of Indira Gandhi and the 1984 riots. At that time, I was DCP of Central Delhi, which was the most sensitive district in Delhi. Riots were better controlled, if not entirely controlled in my area.

We took several strict measures to control the riots like opening fire on mobs and conducted lots of inquiries. The Raganathan Commission report also appreciated our district’s work.

After a year, in 1985, transistor bomb blasts took place in Delhi and adjoining areas. It was the time when several assassinations took place in the country. Then Delhi also had a major drug problem. Overall, this volume is about the tumultuous experiences I encountered as an IPS officer in the 1980s.

Q. Delhi Police has come under a cloud for its inept handling of the February 2020 Northeast Delhi riots. It was accused of even being complicit in it.What is your take on this matter? And,with your experience of policing during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, do you see any parallels between them?

A. First of all, we can’t compare the two situations. When the 1984 riots took place, Delhi Police were extremely ill equipped. Then, Delhi Police had only 30 to 40 mobile vans in the entire city. Also, the manpower was small. Not only this, even Delhi had a leadership crisis.

Overall, Delhi Police was in bad shape those days. Now, Delhi has more than 4,000 mobile vans. The 1984 riots took place in the entire city of Delhi but riots in 2020 took place only in one area. More than 700 cases were registered in 2020 riots while in the 1984 riots not many cases were registered. Also, investigations are being carried out in Delhi riots.

Therefore, it is not right to compare the two cases.

Q. What is your prescription for reforming police in the country?

A. The Indian Police Act 1861 is a direct outcome of India’s First War of Independence in 1857, called the Sepoy Mutiny. This law was made to serve the British Empire.

Unfortunately, till date, conventional policing in India is being managed through the 1861-vintage Indian Police Act and the troika of criminal laws, i.e. CrPC, IPC and Evidence Act. These laws do not support the police as a service meant for the poor and the socially deprived, children, women, disabled, elderly, and the like.

There is a trust deficit between police and people, and it is a big problem. Therefore, community oriented policing should be there. Deprived people like women, kids, disabled people, Dalits, poor and backward should be given utmost priority by policemen. These people require service, not the rich or politicians.’