By Sajad Lone
Meet the SSP Srinagar, Rakesh Balwal (IPS), son of the soil, widely known for his investigation skills in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in J&K. He holds the distinction of cracking the 2019 Pulwama attack case. He earned appreciation from one and all for public friendly Policing as he believes in “Police is nothing but Public in uniform”. Arresting the Srinagar Acid attack accused in less than 24 hours is worth to mention.
He talks about challenges, opportunities, public friendly initiatives of police in Srinagar and hard approach against militancy and drug Mafia in candid conversation with Kashmir News Service (KNS)
KNS: As Srinagar Police Chief, how do you rate the security situation in the city?
SSP: Despite the consistent efforts from across the border to stir up trouble in the valley in general and Srinagar in particular, the District Srinagar police has been very successful in improving the security scenario in the district. As a result we have been successful in keeping militancy related and law and order situations at bay. Amarnath Yatra 2022, Muharam, 15th August remained peaceful.
There is also a perceptible increase in the tangible feeling of security and peace in the Srinagar city on the whole.
KNS: Over the many years, youngsters are now joining militant ranks in Srinagar City also. What does it indicate about militancy in Srinagar?
SSP: As far as youth joining militancy is concerned, one thing that needs to be stressed is there are number of youths that we have been able to prevent from joining the militant ranks. Srinagar police in a pro active manner has brought back dozens of young men from the clutches of radicalisation who were about to join the ranks of militants. No doubt sometimes one or two guys may join militancy, but it must be looked at in the context of the constant propaganda that we are subject to by enemy forces. It is due to our efforts that we have only one resident militant from Srinagar district presently.
KNS: What are the Challenges of Srinagar City viz viz policing?
SSP: As far as challenges faced by Srinagar police is concerned, the following are the main challenges as of now:
A. Ensuring an incident free year and pro-actively containing terrorist activities.
B. Ensuring that no Law and Order situation is fermented by enemies of peace.
C. Rooting out the menace of drugs from the city and busting all the drug cartels active.
D. Ensuring service delivery to citizens in a hassle free and transparent manner.
KNS: What is the response of your unique initiative of Grievance redressal mechanism in Srinagar police which was well appreciated by the public? Do you have more plans to curb corruption in Srinagar police?
SSP: Yes, as SSP Srinagar I have impressed upon my officers and men to have a citizen friendly approach to policing and also dedicate a part of the day’s work to hearing the public and redressing their genuine grievances.
In this regard even I meet citizens daily in my office; in case of my absence my office has a Public Relations Officer, DSP HQRS, whom people can meet anytime.
Also Thana Diwas takes place on each Thursday in every PS. Where officers and Citizens meet and discuss issues for their redressaal. I always think that the Public-centric policing approach is unmatched.
KNS: What is overall situation of crime in Srinagar? Can it continue the tag of safe City for women?
SSP: The main women related issue in Srinagar is domestic abuse, harassment by In Laws. and to lesser extent harassment by someone known. As far as street culture is concerned. I would deem Srinagar a very safe city for women folk as society is close knit. We have a dedicated women’s police station and two dedicated mobile women’s safety squads plus a women helpline number is also operational 24×7. That keeps looking for women in distress. My emphasis has been on reporting of each crime that takes place against women. As district SSP, I consider every woman as my mother, sister and daughter like.
KNS: Drug peddling has become a new problem in Srinagar. There are many areas like Lalchowk bund where youngster’s openly smoke drugs. What is your take on it?
SSP: We have taken many steps in curbing the drug menace in the city. Our officers are on round in public parks and community spaces to prevent them being used as sites of drug abuse. Recently directions have been passed to Police Stations to call the parents of uniformed children sitting in parks idle after skipping schools to counsel them. Also we have involved community members, to curb this problem. Recently we caught a student of an engineering college consuming alcohol in the Nishat area. They were counselled. Our drug rehabilitation centre is operational in the Eidgah area that takes the rehabilitation part.
In case of suppliers or peddlers, we go for direct lodgement of FIR. Many drug peddlers have been booked under PSA as well. These steps are part of Nasha mukti abhiyaan launched by UT Govt.
KNS: Share your message for the youth of Srinagar.
SSP: Youth is the prime period of life that makes or breaks you. It is like the stage of fuelling in a race. You will go as far as you have fuelled yourself.
Make sure you have the right company, the right goals, the right perspective and the right guidance in this phase. In case of any confusion speak to your parents. In case any youth feels he needs our help, guidance or counselling, they are always welcome to approach me.
I always believed that “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”