Young and dynamic Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bigyan Raj Sharma has been making efforts to improve the law and order situation as well as other services in Kathmandu metropolis. Additional Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Sharma spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
How do you see the role of Metropolitan Police in the present context?
Although Metropolitan Police was established nine years ago, it has yet to get the powers to function with full authority. Its chiefs come and go, without any powers as such in the organization. The authority is still with the District Administration Offices of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Metropolitan Police was established to deliver all kinds of services from one window. However, it has yet to get the powers to use the kind of authority the objectives of the establishment of the Commissioner's Office envisaged.
What is the state of law and order in Kathmandu?
Law and order is normal in Kathmandu. There is no major problem. Despite the growing population and a number of new developments, the police has been able to control crime in Kathmandu valley. The confidence level of police is very high. Thus, the people have heaved some sigh of relief.
For a population of 5.5 million, how do you assess the importance of Metropolitan Police?
The concept of Metropolitan Police will materialize only after the concerned authorities, including District Administrative Offices, delegate their certain major powers to Metropolitan Police, particularly when they are related to service delivery. We are not asking for all major things or all the authorities. What we want is limited authority related to maintaining law and order and delivering services. Metropolitan Police needs authority to take decisions on a fast track basis. The current uncertainty is due to hesitation of the authorities to share their powers with us.
As all the problems are piling back here, how can you deal with them?
We organized a seminar on establishment of the Metropolitan Police office. We invited people from various walks of life to discuss the agenda. Although many things have already been worked out in the past, the one-day seminar also revealed many other important issues. Participated in by retired senior bureaucrats, retried police officers and senior civil servants, attorney generals and lawyers, the workshop concluded by endorsing certain suggestions to make Metropolitan Police effective. We have already forwarded the resolution at the Police Headquarter and our headquarter has forwarded it to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry is also reportedly preparing a bill to formalize Metropolitan Police. Even Ministry of Law and Justice reportedly suggested to Ministry of Home that this institution needs a certain legal basis. What I can say is that this issue needs to be implemented as early as possible and it is reported that Ministry of Law and Justice has even proposed to include Metropolitan Police as part of Nepal Police Act.
If your office lacks legal powers, what is your role then?
Our office does not have any legal powers. I cannot send anybody to even evict an illegal owner from a house. Without the order from Chief District Officer, we cannot take any action. This power should have been with the Commissioner's Office. One has to go to District Administrative Office to seek safety and security. Police acts only after an order from that office. If this kind of authority is with the Commissioner Office, the process will be much easier and simpler. This needs to be implemented as soon as possible.
Why does Nepal need Commissioner's Office?
Along with urbanization, the pattern of crime has been changing. The concept of living together is common in city now-a-days. It is still out of imagination in the rural areas. There are debates over rights of the third gender. Along with opening of massage parlors, casinos, discos and restaurants, a lot of new lifestyles have opened up, so have the crimes. Due to the presence of all these modern phenomena, the people living in the valley need a special treat and here comes the role of Metropolitan Police. The concept is widely applied in all the metropolitan cities around the world. If we work in a traditional way, how is it possible to provide the services to the public? We know police is the first responder. Police is the first step of service delivery and justice. If the police organization works quickly, it will help other organizations also.
As Department of Transport Management has shared certain powers with the Traffic Police, what impact has this made?
Although some authorities, including the threshold amount of fine, have been given to traffic police, this has not made any impact on broader level. There is a Metropolitan Police Commissioner's Office in the signboard. However, it does not have any legal rights.
All the Police Offices of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Jail, Traffic and Airport Police are under the Commissioner's Office. There is no authority. There is no legal status. There is an office but there is no legal status for the office.
Are you exercising all the police rights?
I have the authority and right to supervise police offices in Kathmandu Valley. I have the authority as a supervisor of Kathmandu Valley’s Police Departments. What I am demanding is the authority that should be part of metropolitan police.
I hope this office will get some more authority.
How about the institutional capability?
We have the institutional capability. We have manpower and physical infrastructure. People will receive quick and better service delivery once this office is fully authorized to take the decisions. Metropolitan Police will also help us to regulate the casino. Now Ministry of Tourism registers the casinos and regulatory part is given to us. This is a one-window policy. Gas is explosive, thus there is the need that we have the authority to register the petrol pumps. Registration of restaurants, petrol pumps and other such day to day work should be given to us. We need authority in the management of demonstrations, evacuation of homes and so on.
As you know Kathmandu valley is one of the vulnerable earthquake zones, what authority do you have to manage the disasters in case of major earthquake? How do you prepare for this?
Metropolitan Commissioner's Office is prepared for handling any kind of disaster. This is one of the key parts of our organization. We have a disaster wing which is preparing the disaster plan in coordination with various organizations. We have a separate company in our armed battalion to carry out rescue and rehabilitation work in case of any kind of earthquake or other disaster. As per the Kathmandu Valley Disaster Preparedness Master Plan, there are open spaces. Nepal Police will be the first institution to take care of all these rescue work in case of disaster.
How safe are the Police Offices in Kathmandu in case of earthquake?
First of all, we need to protect the police from disasters. There must be all necessary steps taken to pave for their free mobility. However, some of our police stations are in such an unsafe condition. Let's take the case of Hanuman Dhoka Police Office, which is in a very poor condition and is unsafe in case of major earthquake. There is the need to prevent the casualty of police personnel from disaster.
Have you not made any effort to transfer the Hanuman Dhoka?
The process of shifting the police office from Hanuman Dhoka is in progress but nobody knows when it will complete on the basis of a timetable.
At a time when the construction of police stations across the country is going on through the Peace Trust Fund, how do you see the possibility to use the resources to relocate Hanuman Dhoka with a new building?
There is no budget for Kathmandu. The Peace Trust Fund is providing the money to construct those police stations which were destroyed during the Maoist insurgency. Recently, I visited a police station in Bhattedanda, which is constructed with support from the Peace Trust Fund. Within a next few weeks, a new police building will be inaugurated at Nanglebhari, near Sankhu, which was also destroyed during the conflict.
Don’t you think there is the need to reconstruct police buildings in Kathmandu?
Yes, police stations and posts of Kathmandu Valley are also in pathetic conditions. They too need renovation and reconstruction. Except for a few police stations, most of the police posts and stations are in very poor conditions.
Don’t you have plans to make new buildings?
For instance, a new building in Durbarmarg is under construction. Similarly, a few others are in the process of completion like Shorkhutee. Out of the police stations and posts in Kathmandu, 25 per cent are new and 75 percent are old.
How do you look at the public complaints that Traffic Police is unable to act immediately. Is it due to the lack of manpower or something else?
Yes we don’t have adequate manpower in Traffic Police. There is a huge gap in the ratio of vehicles and number of traffic police. Despite the overwhelming increase in the number of vehicles and roads, Traffic Police operates with the same number of personnel as that of a decade ago. At a time when there were no road lights and poor markings in the road, handling vehicle mobility was itself a difficult work. Given the very low number of traffic police, regulating the road is very complex now.
How do evaluate the effectiveness of the current Transport Management Act and Regulations in regulating traffic?
This act itself is creating hurdles. There is the need to give all the transport related authority to a single unit. Traffic Police needs to be empowered in vehicle traffic movement. Frankly speaking, the traffic does not have any authority at all. Traffic Police cannot fine a bus driver, not more than two hundred rupees, if he has over load. The fine is very low. The law needs to be strict. But the part of fine should be revised. This authority should be given to traffic police. There is also the need to improve the road work. For instance, the road marking part goes to Department of Roads. Due to the delay in marking the road, traffic police has to bear the pressure. Although traffic police personnel are visible in the road, they have less than 25 percent of authority regarding managing road traffic. Other stakeholders have 75 authority. If road light is installed in major junctions of Kathmandu, the current traffic jams will drastically go down. There is often a long jam in Thapathali because there is no light. If there is light in all the major junctions, traffic congestion will be reduced.
Motorcycles and public vehicles violate laws. We have a very few CC cameras and traffic police. Now CC cameras are used in certain intersections.