Maharashtra Home Minister in trap!

After  former Mumbai Police Commissioner ParamVeer Singh dropped a letter bomb alleging that state home minister Anil Deshmukh wanted police offices to collect Rs 100 crores monthly from bars and hotels in the city, the BJP had risen its voice demanding his removal as the home minister. Questioning the timing of the allegations of corruption against Anil Deshmukh by former Mumbai top cop Param Bir Singh, NCP president Sharad Pawar on Monday said that he will continue as the home minister of Maharashtra. The case of the SUV carrying explosives and a threatening letter near Antilla on February 25, has been unfolding like the proverbial can of worms. The vehicle was traced to Mansukh Hiran, who was found dead, his wife pointed the finger at assistant police inspector Sachin Waze, who was arrested by NIA and then suspended even as Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh was transferred, and Singh has levelled explosive allegations of corruption against state home minister Anil Deshmukh.
Had it been a Bollywood thriller, one might have enjoyed it. But it’s not. The recovery of an explosives-laden SUV near business tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s house and the mysterious death of businessman Mansukh Hiran have opened a can of worms, showing both the Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra Government in a poor light. Under fire from the Centre as well as the BJP, the Shiv Sena-led dispensation has replaced the Mumbai Police Commissioner. The new chief has been candid enough to admit that the credibility of the police has taken a hit due to some black sheep. In the SUV case being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the focus is on a controversial cop, Sachin Waze. He has gained notoriety over the years as an encounter specialist, having allegedly eliminated 60-odd suspected criminals. Waze was suspended in 2004 over his role in the custodial death of 2002 Ghatkopar blast suspect Khwaja Yunus and resigned in 2007, but he was reinstated after 13 years by the Uddhav Thackeray government in 2020. The ruling Shiv Sena is finding itself cornered after BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis claimed that in 2018 when he was the CM, he had rejected a demand by Uddhav to bring Waze back into the police ranks.
The opposition is naturally having a field day. The internal divisions of Maharashtra’s coalition government that have kept intermittently spiking during its 16 months in office, have now hit an extremely rough patch. While Shiv Sena had seen NCP trying to wash its hands off the Waze episode instead of standing by it, Singh’s allegations of “misdeeds and malpractices” of Deshmukh have now put Sharad Pawar on the back foot. These need to be investigated as rigorously as those against Waze. But the only long-term solution to the systemic abuse of the law that’s being suspected right now is police reforms.
 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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