‘Drugs more of a social issue’

Davis NR Marak took over as the superintendent of police of East Khasi Hills at a crucial time when crime against women and children was creating ripples of anger in the city and law and order was deteriorating. Coming from insurgency-hit Garo Hills (Williamnagar) the challenges for Marak in Shillong, where he grew up, were aplenty.
The alumnus of St Anthony’s College says life as a cop is tough and there is no time to socialise. “The only time we socialise is at official functions,” Marak smiles. But what keeps him going is the love for the job and the thrill that it has. In a tête-à-tête with The Shillong Times, Marak talks about the changed priorities on field, the department’s readiness in time of crisis and plans for better service.
As the new SP of East Khasi Hills what are the challenges that you are facing? Having worked in the militancy zone, is it easier for you to tackle problems here?
In the Garo Hills region, it was mainly counter-insurgency and the focus on militancy. Be it a kidnap or murder, it was all related to militancy but crimes here are of different types. There (in Williamnagar) it was a rural setting with poor communications and broken roads. Here we are exposed to so many problems like traffic, law and order due to agitations by various groups. Protocol duties are also part of the duty in the capital city. So the challenges are not comparable and priorities are different.
The number of theft cases has increased in the city. But night patrolling is scarce. How are you planning to tackle the problem?
It is wrong to say that there are no night patrols. Of course there is. But we have to strategise things at night, especially in the wake of the recent arson cases. So we identify the entry and exit points of localities and utilise our men. There are patrol cars in every police outpost and beat house. Also, night patrol teams have women officers. Police cannot cover all areas at all times. Patrol teams visit localities periodically. I wish we had more manpower. Nonetheless, we strategise our work even with less resource as we cannot always complain about what we have got.
Also, there are no night kiosks in the city…
True, there are no police kiosks in the city but there are night officers at outposts and beat houses. Also, we have a 24×7 helpline number. We are planning to set up computerized information kiosks and might get help from a few business entities.
What about drunken driving? Does the police department have modern equipment like breath analysers?
Strict and prompt action is taken against drunken driving. Yes, we do have breath analysers but some of them do not function. In that case we forward the offender for medical tests. However, we will get more breath analysers for effective and fast result.
What are the challenges for the department?
Manpower crisis is a perennial problem. Lack of modern equipment is another factor. Like in cases of cyber crime, we do not have the set-up to handle sophisticated cases.
There are other job hazards like stress and little time for family. But you have to love the job to not consider these as hazards.
Agitations by various groups are a common feature in the city. How do you cope
with it?
We are not against agitations provided it is done peacefully. There is a procedure that every group planning to take out a rally or agitate in the city has to follow. It has to first seek permission from the deputy commissioner’s office and then the SP office. It has to follow certain guidelines. Some agitations are unconstitutional and in such cases we treat protesters as criminals, like the recent arsonists.
What about the rising drug-related cases in the city? Peddlers manage to get bail because of the weak investigation. Why?
Drug abuse is more of a social issue. Addiction leads to all forms of crime, including peddling. The problem needs to be treated in totality and not merely a crime. The Governemnt should build rehabilitation centres so that addicts can be cured. Awareness on the ill effects of drugs is important and we often conduct such programmes in schools, colleges and localities.
Talking about arrests, we had had good catches in the past. If we arrest an addict, we get some information from him about the source of the drugs seized. But Shillong is only a transit point and not producer of drugs, so tracking the kingpins become a problem. Also, drug business has become sophisticated. However, we are co-ordinating with various agencies and neighbouring states to check the problem.
Crime against women and children is a major issue now. How are you planning to tackle this problem and what is the conviction rate? What about juvenile delinquents and their rehabilitation?
We have one women police station at Sadar. Some of the other police stations have women officers but not all. We will set up more such facilities in future. Also, there are child welfare sections at police stations and I personally monitor it. We also have an active missing desk.
Child welfare officers look into cases of juvenile delinquents. They investigate into the nature of crime and accordingly forward the cases to the Juvenile Justice Board. In case of petty crime, parents are summoned and they are counselled along with the child. The district child protection units also co-operate in the rehabilitation process.
David Marshillong, a habitual offender, was recently arrested from the city. Why is he managing to get bail every time?
Marshillong was arrested more than 25 times earlier. Though he was charge-sheeted several times, there was no conviction, which is in the judiciary’s ambit.
How do you maintain discipline in the force in the wake of incidents like suicides and fratricides?
Discipline is ingrained in the force when it is trained. However, all of them are working under stress. So we counsel them. The seniors listen to the subordinates and discuss their problems. We have two counsellors in the Social Welfare Department who help victims of crime. Sometimes they too help in counseling stressed out personnel.
Is there any tourism police?
No, the concept of tourism police is new and it requires separate training. Again, the problem of manpower crisis arises. To have tourism policing, we have to train a different group. However, our officers help tourists and strangers in the city when help is sought.
What is the status of HNLC?
There is no physical existence of the group here. There are a few sympathisers and members who work from Bangladesh and are only active on social media.

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