When RAMESH CHAND THAKURI, 53, was appointed the chief of Nepal Police about one and a half years ago, the law and order situation was not normal. When he took up the helm of Nepal Police, there were rampant incidents of kidnapping, road blockades and organized crimes. Despite several lacunas and shortcomings, Thakuri has brought progress in law and order situation and significant change in the police organization. Thakuri, who was born in Darchula of far western region, joined Nepal Police as an inspector through open competition in 1981. In the context of coming Dashain festival and Nepal Police Day, the chief of Nepal Police spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues, including the organizational capacity of disaster management. Excerpts:
As the chief of Nepal Police, how do you assess the law and order situation?
Our records show significant progress made in the law and order situation in the country, particularly in the Kathmandu valley and the terai. Whether it is the issue of maintaining law and order or exposing activities related to crime and criminal incidents, the progress is satisfactory. We are also receiving positive response from common people.
Despite your claim that the law and order situation has improved significantly, the rate of criminal activities including murders, loots and kidnappings continue. What do you say?
No country can provide one hundred percent security shield and Nepal is not an exception. Given Nepal’s present situation and resources and capabilities of Nepal Police, there is a reason to rejoice and get satisfaction. We have arrested a number of groups involved in organized crimes, including drugs, and fake currency and police have rescued people from abduction.
If the situation is alright, why has Nepal Police has decided to mobilize 4,000 police just before the Dashain festival?
Our past experiences show that the number of crimes increase during festival seasons like Dashain. This is the time when there is a mass movement of people from one place to another. This is the opportune moment for criminals. That is why we decided to mobilize a large number of police in highways and urban centers. People normally return home during the festivals and houses are empty.
If the law and order situation is normally better in urban areas like capital Kathmandu, what is the situation in the Terai and the hills?
The situation was really worse in the terai particularly the areas from Sunsari to Banke districts till a year ago. One can see a much better situation in the terai after we arrested a lot of individuals involved in criminal activities. I have to admit that after the introduction of the Special Security Program the situation has drastically improved. The initiative of the Home Ministry, the Special Security Program has been bearing results. The situation in eastern hills and terai is almost under control and people are feeling safe.
Despite unstable political situation and limited manpower, Nepal Police has made progress. What is the reason behind it?
Basically, one of the most important parts is about our commitment. We have never raised the issues like lack of resources and manpower in the process of maintaining law and order. Since its establishment 55 years ago, Nepal Police has always been working with a commitment to restore law and order and provide security to the people. Even during the conflict period, our officers and non-officers had never compromised with their ethos to provide security to the people. They even sacrificed their lives. This is the history of Nepal Police. We have been facing all the challenges.
The number of incidents related to road blockades in various highways by local people has drastically reduced. What is the reason behind this?
This is the general observation. We do feel the same. At the initiative of the Home Ministry, Nepal Police got some resources during implementation of the Special Security Program. It helped a lot to enhance our limited capability. One of the major components of the program was to make highways free from all kinds of disturbances. Under this program, we have taken several steps to provide security in the highways. Another reason behind the reduction of the disturbance is introduction of third party insurance policy. Under this policy, there is a provision to provide compensation to those members of the family who lost the life in accident.
At a time when Nepal Police is arresting a number of persons in corruption related activities, it is reported that there is a rampant corruption going on within the police organization. What do you say on this?
So far as corruption is concerned, Nepal Police is firmly committed to wipe it out from the organization by making it transparent and clean. There is zero tolerance on corruption in our organization. If we find persons within our organizations involved in corruption and criminal activities, we take immediate action and punish them.
It is reported that politicization is the main reason behind demoralization of the police, how do you look at it?
I don’t want to comment on what people and others’ say. However, what I can say is that Nepal Police was established under Nepal Police Act 1955. Our organization is regulated under this act. There may be some individual or isolated cases otherwise but generally Nepal Police is a professional organization.
How do you look at the recent amendment in the regulation which made 30 years in service as a criterion for retirement? Many see this system will affect the whole organization structure. Don’t you think that political pressure is responsible for frequent amendments in the regulation, particularly in such a sensitive issue?
Had such a provision been introduced through the amendment of act, it would have been better for the institution. Of course, one can raise the question when amendment is made in the regulation rather than in the act. Had it been done through the amendment in act, it would have strengthened the institution. The act guarantees professionalism in Nepal Police.
What is the role of Nepal Police in terms of law and order?
Nepal Police is working now as a frontline organization to maintain the law and order. We have the responsibility to implement the rule of law. Nepal Police is the only organization which is responsible to implement existing laws and maintain peace in society.
What is the state of organized crime?
Whether in Terai or Kathmandu valley, we are able to control organized crimes. We have already proposed a draft of the law to Ministry of Home to cope with organized crimes. We have established Central Investigative Bureau within our organization to deal with highly sensitive crimes like money laundering, drug cartel, terrorism and other organized crimes with international link. The bureau is composed of experts and specialized police officers. We are in the process to give certain legal rights to CIB. We are in the process of equipping it.
Can you explain how long will it take to mobilize police for rescue operation if there is a major earthquake in Kathmandu valley like in Haiti?
Of course, this is a very important area. Not only Nepal Police, the nation as a whole needs to be worried about such a situation. Given Nepal Police’s present strength and capability, we will reach the spot at the earliest possible time provided roads, bridges and similar things remain intact. However, our local level force will also take the lead. As you know, disasters are one of the major problems of Nepal. Floods and landslides create havoc in rural parts of Nepal. Nepal Police is the front organization to start rescue operation whenever there are disasters. We rescued a lot of people this year.
What do you mean?
We are not in a position to launch rescue operation as Nepal Police does not have even the basic equipment. Our planning and policies are just in paper. We received hardly any support for those kinds for preparation. It is not in a visible position. The government is worried about this and as a part of the government we too are worried.
What worries you must about disasters?
Increase in number of multi-storied, high buildings. I don’t understand the construction of high rises in capital without having the basic things. Unfortunately, there are no supporting infrastructures with us. In case of fire, we even don’t have fire brigades capable to control fire at ten floors. Similarly, there is no crane and bulldozer to clean the road. We don’t have even small equipment. There is the need to have heavy equipment to rescue people from multistory buildings. We may even require helicopters to rescue people.
Don’t you have the technical capability?
Frankly speaking, we don’t have that kind of capability. We cannot control fire by just carrying water in buckets by hand in case there is a fire on top of nine story buildings. For instance, recently there was a fire at UTL building and the available fire brigade was unable to throw water. Thanks to a cannon fodder of Nepal Police, we were able to control the fire and avoided a major accident.
As Nepal lies in earthquake active zone as well as being vulnerable to disasters, Nepal’s development partners have been giving high priority to disaster management. Since Nepal Police is the frontline agency in rescue operation in all times, what steps have been taken to enhance the capability of your organization?
Despite limited equipment and other such facilities, Nepal Police has been doing its best taking part in all rescue operations in disasters including fires, floods, landslides, earthquakes and accidents. We have experienced manpower. We also conduct training from time to time in various levels. Training is not a solution. Disaster is a high priority of Nepal government and Ministry of Home has even special units under it. As a department under Ministry of Home, Nepal Police is playing a supporting role.
In case of a situation like in Haiti earthquake, how effectively can Nepal Police handle its job?
Our human resources are enough to manage the situation but we cannot carry out effective rescue operations without machineries. Our movement is fast and we reach the spot in less than a minute.