Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXI No. 24, April 1-15, 2022

The real Singam IPS – II

by R.V. Rajan, rvrajan42@gmail.com

(Continued from last fortnight)

When Rajaji was acting Governor General, Sarojini Naidu happened to visit Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

He showed her the throne room and other rooms including the spacious bed room. As he entered the bedroom Rajaji observed, “Look, what a huge bed for such a small man?” Not to be outwitted, she sweetly replied “Rajaji, I have no objection to give you company.”

There are many such interesting anecdotes relating to Rajaji in the book.

* * *

The first challenge that Singam faced as soon as he took over as the Police Commissioner in Chennai was the transport strike by the transport drivers. His deft handling of the situation with minimum force received appreciation from the then chief minister.

The introduction of Mobile Courts to deal with petty offences on the spot received appreciation from Mr. Parker, the then Los Angels Police chief who was on a visit to Madras. He called it an innovation and even posed for a photograph in front of the Mobile Court vehicle.

The next big challenge Singam faced was the Anti Hindi agitation by the school and college students. On 27th January, 1965, as a mark of protest against imposition of Hindi, all the schools and colleges in the city staged hartals and marched towards the Secretariat as though to capture it. They were stopped at the war memorial, 200 yards away. It was by now 4 pm. Playing on the psychology of the students, word was sent that if they wished to return home, police vans would be available. Students could not believe it. Since there was an underlying fear that the students might damage the police van or even set fire to police vehicles, a police constable was sent with the van. About 50 boys got into the van and they were dropped at the Triplicane bus stand. Since the van returned safely, more vans were deployed to clear the students. As the vans were moving the students started chanting, “Down, Down Hindi, Up, Up Police!” A very tense situation on that day was thus tactfully handled.

Gradually trouble spread to the districts. A whispering campaign began that certain top officials had been arrested. All the urchins from the slum areas moved into main roads, stopped passing vehicles and stoned them. Over 3,000 urchins were rounded up and kept in the compound of the Police Commissioner’s office. Lest the police should be accused of adopting third degree methods, after giving them a talk they were assembled in ‘twos’ facing each other. They were given a cane each and one boy was asked to give 12 cuts to the other and there after the other boy was to return those 12 strikes. Then they were sent home with their parents who had come to collect them. A British woman who had come to collect her cook’s son remarked, “Well, the police are not beating them. So they cannot be accused of adopting third degree methods.” She also agreed that those urchins deserved that treatment.

* * *

During Singam’s tenure in the Intelligence Bureau in Bangalore, his problem was to locate a house. The then IG of Police was a consummate gentleman. He found him a house on the prestigious Infantry road in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic). After he had inspected the house and approved it, one of the ministers of the Mysore State cast an eye on it. But later Singam gathered that the IG of Police sowed the seeds of superstition in the minister’s mind saying that it was a haunted house and that policemen alone could live in it. The minister’s family gave up the idea of occupying the house and Singam got it.

A good friend of Singam, Sundaramurthy owned a rich library. From experience he had found that loaned books had a way of never returning. One day he told Singam that he had invented a method against friends borrowing his books.

“Even you, Singam,” he observed, “will refuse to accept, if I lend you one”. When Singam checked the books he found that all of them had been rubber stamped ‘This book is stolen from the house of Mr. Sundaramurthy!’

As mentioned earlier, Singam made a huge impact on the people in his position as the IG of Police, Kerala. His innovative ideas were appreciated by both the government and the public.

His first act after taking office was to appoint a Deputy Superintendent of Police as the Public Relations Officer. It helped bring the police and the press closer.

Four weeks later, there was a land grab agitation by the Marxists led by A.K. Gopalan. After making all the arrangements, Singam went in his civilian dress and mingled with the crowd to watch ‘Operation Land Grab’. The police had a tough time to keep the surging crowd under check. Often they had to push the front line and appeal to them to go backwards. On one occasion Singam who was in the crowd also had to step back. The Press obviously had noticed it. Next day all Malayam dailies carried the headline, “IG obeys a constable.”

The Marxists were extremely anti-police. It was difficult for police officers in uniform to travel alone unless they did so in numbers. Singam found an opportunity to improve declining relations. One day the Marxist leader A.K. Gopalan rang up Singam to complain about some matters of importance. It was a loud and angry voice at the other end followed by incessant coughing. When Singam enquired about his health he replied, “You know I have heart problems and if I have to go to your office, I have to climb stairs.” Seizing the opportunity, Singam offered to visit the leader in his home. That evening when he visited the leader’s home, he was received warmly. He also registered his complaint with Singam. The prompt action that Singam took in the matter made the Malayalam papers report with the headline “IG calls on ailing Gopalan and takes prompt action on his complaint.” This had a marvelous effect on the Marxist workers and sympathizers who started feeling that the police was not that bad at all.

Inspired by the success story of Maryland police who sent Christmas greetings to the citizens in their area and found the response from the public very encouraging, Singam decided to implement a similar idea in Cochin. With the help of a business man he put up banners with the message ‘Kerala Policemen wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ in all important junctions of Cochin. On January 1st among the first to see them was the Chief Minister of Kerala whose reaction was quick and favourable. This idea was repeated during Onam and later on Eid day.

During his stay, Onam festival coincided with the Independence day. Having learnt that the all the Superintendents of Police had been mainly preoccupied with departmental enquiries to the neglect of their other important day to day functions, Singam decided on the eve of Onam that year to declare amnesty to all those cases except those involving corruption and moral turpitude. Over 2,700 enquiries ranging from buttons not polished to overstaying leave were closed to the relief of large number of personnel many of whom had been under suspension for periods varying from six months to one year. Not only the newspapers but political leaders also called it ‘IG’s Onam Gift.’

As already mentioned, the starting of the All Women Police station, two months before he relinquished office, was Singam’s single biggest contribution to policing in the country. Considered to be first of its kind not only in India but perhaps in the world, the police station was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Cochin. All Women Police Stations had counselors attached which encouraged women to visit such stations with their problems. Another reform greatly applauded by the public was the manning of the traffic points by police women who were trained in batches in the local hospital not only in First Aid but also to attend to emergency delivery cases.

Post retirement from the police force, Singam spent six years as the member of Union Public Service commission where also he left his indelible mark.

* * *

The book is published by Creative Workshop based in Chennai as a hard cover edition which is available only for family and friends. However, the paper back edition of the book for the public is expected to be available soon.

(Concluded)

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