After committing multiple blunders and earning a lot of disrepute over the infamous gang rape involving a powerful ruling BJP MLA, the Uttar Pradesh police have now got down to refurbishing their image.
While no efforts are being made to fix the decay in the police force, the emphasis is solely on curbing the bad press that the force has been getting on account of its acts of commission or omission in the gang rape case.
A circular issued by the state director general of police clearly calls for setting up of special media cells in each of the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh as part of this image building process. The intended objective of the exercise is to ensure that negative stories about the men in khakhi do not find prominence in the media. What was described in the yesteryears as "cover-up" or "hush up", has now found legitimacy in a circular issued by the police that talks about an "image overhaul" exercise.
Significantly, this comes close on the heels of chief minister Yogi Adityanath's effort to refurbish his own image that got a severe beating on account of general deterioration in the state's law and order situation and spate of rapes right under the nose of the administration.
What evidently became a major blot for the government was the blatant manner in which the police went about shielding the Unnao gang rape accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the local BJP MLA. Not only was his name systematically excluded from the FIR lodged by the victim, but the fact that the cops defiantly refused to arrest him amply displayed the government's intention to protect him. The arrest came only after the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the case.
What probably prompted the PMO to get CBI on the job was the decision of the Allahabad High Court to take suo moto cognisance of the case. Well before the case was taken up for hearing, a special CBI team swooped on the all-powerful MLA early morning.
The development came as a major face-saver for the government because barely five hours after Sengar's arrest, a high court bench issued a scathing order against the police as well as the advocate general, Raghvendra Singh, who went out of his way to unabashedly shield the alleged rapist in the open court.
Heinous crimes against women and more so minors have been on the rise in Adityanath's Uttar Pradesh. Not a day passes without rape stories hitting headlines.
But the police have undertaken damage control in a big way now and the setting up of media cells in all districts is part of that exercise. "These special media cells will provide information relating to incidents of crime in every district where such information will be circulated through WhatsApp groups comprising of local mediapersons," said an official state police spokesman.
A similar system was already in place at the office of director general of police (DGP), where a deputy superintendent of police was tasked with monitoring a media cell. Though the cell functions quite efficiently, it is largely designed to give out only positive stories. Sure enough, the idea is to have similar set-ups in the districts.
The district level media cells are to be equipped with a "media kit", comprising a multi-media phone, a tripod as well as a LED light to facilitate recording of all key crime events. Quotes of district-level officers will also be recorded and circulated to the media through these cells. The media kits will also be used to record statements of senior officials in important cases where media is usually looking for bytes.
That the entire system is meant to project a positive image of the police was amply demonstrated in the circular issued by the DGP OP Singh's office, which lays great emphasis on giving out stories of police successes.Singh, however, can do little to salvage the damage he did by referring to rape accused Sengar as "mananiya" during a press briefing.
Visibly oblivious of the ground reality, even Adityanath is still busy bragging about the "success" of his anti-Romeo squads, when the futility and failure of the much hyped scheme is an open secret.
"As soon as I assumed office as chief minister, I got anti-Romeo squads formed all across the state because safety and security of women was on top of my list of priorities," Adityanath told a large gathering at a function organised by a national English daily here on April 29 to elect their "women of the year". And his answer to the rise in number of rapes is, "I had sought death penalty for rapists of minor girls and thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, my request has been conceded."