Rows marred drug STF’s working during Harpreet Singh Sidhu’s tenure
The 1992-batch IPS officer was given high-profile assignment by CM Amarinder after he was repatriated from central deputation in Naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh
The Punjab Police’s much-hyped special task force (STF) on drugs remained in news more for internal bickering within the top brass than hitting at the drug cartels during the 17-month tenure of additional director general of police (ADGP) Harpreet Singh Sidhu as its head.
The STF was formed by Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government after coming to power as bringing the drug menace to an end in the state was one of the major promises of the party in the run-up to the assembly polls last year.
A 1992-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Sidhu was on Saturday removed as the STF chief and was posted as special principal secretary to the chief minister. He was given the high-profile assignment by chief minister Amarinder after he was repatriated from central deputation as part of which he was posted with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh.
The fact that he was made to report directly to the CM and not through the director general of police (DGP)’s office also spoke volumes about the importance given to the assignment he was given.
Also, he was provided an office in the civil secretariat and was made ADGP (border) to head the smuggling-hit Bathinda and Amritsar ranges. Around 600 cops, including three IGPs besides several SSP- and SP-rank officials, were attached with the task force.
However, under Sidhu’s stewardship, the STF failed to catch the ‘big fish’ involved in drug trade in Punjab and the only big case it cracked was seizure of drugs from since-dismissed police inspector Inderjit Singh.
Infighting in the top police brass began when the name of former Moga senior superintendent of police (SSP) Raj Jit Singh Hundal cropped up in the Inderjit case.
From day one, the STF head locked horns with DGP Suresh Arora and DGP (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta and with the backing of other senior officers the task force became a ‘parallel power centre’.
Many in the state police, especially those from the DGP Arora camp, claim that the STF tried to use the Inderjit case to discredit both Arora and Gupta.
“Right from the beginning, the STF investigated the Inderjit case with a bias and the only motive was to fix top police officers,” an ADGP-rank officer claimed.
As many started looking at the STF as a power centre parallel to the DGP’s office within weeks of its formation, many senior officials who are part of it started feeling suffocated.
This was one of the reasons that the CM announced in March this year that the task force will no longer function independently and will report to DGP Arora. But on record, he never criticised the STF’s working.
Many senior police officers are of the opinion that the controversies pushed the main objective of the STF to the margin and of late its focus shifted from arresting drug peddlers to creating awareness against drugs. The communicant gap between the forced and the CM’s office also grew by the day, they say.
To its credit, the STF launched the ‘Buddy’ and ‘Drug Abuse Prevention Officer (DAPO)’ projects which earned the praise of many across the social spectrum.
The task force has been quite active on social media platforms, especially on Facebook and Twitter. Sidhu also earned praise of many Congress ministers for conducting a probe into a drug case against former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia which is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Sidhu could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.
First Published: Sep 11, 2018 09:47:15