In a surprise decision, the State Government has transferred the popular IG traffic Basant Rath to a non-descript police department. The decision has followed immediately after his twitter spat with the new Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattoo. In a series of tweets, Rath had criticized Mattoo for flippantly dismissing the need to protect wetlands in the city. He had also refused to tolerate Mattoos intervention in the management of the citys traffic and asked him instead to help clear the mess created by the vendors along Srinagar’s Hari Singh High Street. Also, in an interview to a television channel, Rath had warned Mattoo against taking him on as he had more fan following and a bigger constituency than the mayor. His transfer now seems to reveal that the government has not taken kindly to the IGs behaviour.
In Raths little over a year as the IG Traffic, he had become the states most well-known top cop, someone who had truly won the battle of hearts and minds in the Valley. His unorthodox methods to reign in the runaway traffic of the state had made him endearingly controversial. Also, unlike the officers of his rank, he would often be seen personally disciplining the traffic on the roads and freely mingling with the people, something that had won him the sobriquet of the peoples cop.
In Kashmir Valley, the growing admiration for him was an exceptionally unusual development. He could be the first cop, the Valley may have ever taken fancy to. Though constituted mostly of the local people, the police force hasn’t really been very popular in the Valley, owing to the role they play whenever protests erupt, which is quite often, and whenever the encounters break out with the militants, who enjoy endemic public support.
In Jammu too, Rath had won hearts for making a conspicuous difference to the traffic management and for connecting with the ordinary people unlike the elitist distance maintained by the IPS officers or the officers from the state service KPS. Besides, he was perceived to have applied law equally to everybody, including the policemen themselves as the action against the son of a fellow IG, his senior in the department, had underlined. What is more, he even challaned a police vehicle which was moving without a number plate.
This is for no reason thus that the people in the state are upset over his transfer and many people are taking to venting their anger on social media. Rath certainly has a far bigger fan following and a constituency than many mainstream leaders in the state. His transfer was thus hardly expected or even needed. Government should have gone by his fan following rather than by the political pressure in its decision on posting him out of the Traffic department.
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