‘DIG se milne pe kaam ho gaya’: In Bihar’s Bhagalpur, how a DIG is winning people’s trust

Abhishek Angad
On November 2, the officer received the 2019 IIT-Kanpur Satyendra K Dubey Memorial Award, which the institute attributes to Vaibhav’s “honesty, courage and professional integrity in upholding human values while discharging his duties with utmost sincerity”. (Twitter/Vikas Vaibhav)

On a busy weekend at the Deputy Inspector General's (DIG) “Kothi” in Bhagalpur, the senior-most police officer received an unusual request. A woman in her forties made a plea on behalf of her brother: “Pati saat mahine se bahar tha aur patni teen mahine se garbavati. Mahul ghar ka bigad gaya hai. DNA test karate hue doshi vyakti par kanooni karyawahi karein (The husband (her brother) was not home for 7 months, but his wife is three months pregnant. The situation at home is bad. Please conduct a DNA test and take action has per law).”

DIG (eastern range) Vikas Vaibhav, a 2003 batch IPS officer of Bihar cadre and IIT-Kanpur alumnus, could not give a proper response. Although adultery is not a crime anymore, and he wasn't sure if prenatal paternity DNA tests could be done in Bhagalpur, the DIG directed the officer in charge of the police station concerned to ensure action “as per law”.

Later, Vaibhav told The Indian Express, “People feel that at least there is somebody to listen to them. Although there may not be a solution to every problem, just an audience may stop any untoward incident.”

Next in the line was a retired teacher who had a family dispute and was allegedly being harassed. The DIG called up the thana in-charge to listen to the teacher’s problem in detail and take action as per the law. At last, a man in his early 20s came up and asked: “Please guide me to crack the UPSC examination.” The DIG asked him to come another time, citing lack of time.

At least 20-25 people made their requests, the DIG listened to them, and after every hearing, said: “Agar iske baad bhi kuch nahi hota hai to phir aayega (If there is no action after this, please come again).” This continued for two hours — a practice Vaibhav says he started since he began his career.

Requests ranging from property disputes to harassment to sexual violence to abductions, and people from various backgrounds—from Bhagalpur, Banka and Naugachia districts— come to him for redressal. According to records, this has resulted in swift investigation and suspension of at least 42 police personnel — from Station Incharge to traffic personnel — on issues ranging from taking bribes, untimely action, helping the accused and extorting money, since Vaibhav joined in Bhagalpur in May 2017.

This has kept officers on toes, said a DSP posted in Bhagalpur district, adding: "From afternoon 12.30 to 2, we are very alert as we may receive calls from the DIG pertaining to any case.”  The Indian Express spoke to a few people and found that while investigation was not always flawless, there was general satisfaction among people after their cases were registered.

Consider some of these examples, as per the Bhagalpur police records:

# A 17-year-old girl had gone missing in April 2019 under the jurisdiction of Shahkund Police Station, where the officer in charge of the police station was “slow” in the investigation. Ujjuwal Choudhary, a teacher who had helped the girl’s mother meet the DIG, told The Indian Express, “After we met the DIG, matters were expedited. The girl was found and a court case is ongoing. 10 din ka kaam do din mein ho gaya (What would have taken 10 days was completed in two days).” He also emphasised that people have started believing that the DIG would listen to their problems.

# A retired Major General’s cousin was shot dead in Banka district in April this year. The police solved the crime in two weeks, despite the fact that the administration was dealing with the PM’s visit before elections. The retired veteran wrote to the Home Department, praising the work done. Major General (Retd) PC Panjikar told The Indian Express: “In our part of the country (Bihar), people don’t have faith in the police. But after the murder, the investigation was done professionally, headed by Vaibhav.”

# More than Rs 2 lakh was siphoned off from the account of one Jai Kishore Jha of Shahkund area in 2018. Despite investigation, he has not received any money and the accused are still at large. However, Jha said: “Kitna thana gaye pehle to case hi nahi likh raha tha, DIG ke milne ke baad ho gaya (I went to the Thana several times, but the case was registered only after meeting the DIG).” However, he remained unhappy about his money not being traced.

# A mason’s son was abducted and later murdered under Sultanganj Police Station in May this year. Father Krishna Prasad Sahu said: “Local police asked us to first lodge a missing person complaint. I got a sense he was no more. After the intervention, at least now we know that he was murdered. However, the accused are still at large. I have to meet the DIG again as he is the only who listens to us. Neeche wale koi kaam nahi kar rahe hain theek se (Lower-rung officers are not working properly).” The station in-charge was suspended in this case.

# Station in-charge of Belhar Police Station in Banka district was suspended in 2017 after a tractor involved in illegal sand mining was released from the police station without any investigation and without informing any senior police officer. When asked by the DIG, the officer in-charge “did not tell” the name of the owner of the tractor.

On suspensions, DIG Vaibhav emphasises that policing is done through “reward and punishment”. “If one does something wrong and they are not punished, it becomes a habit. I intend to make sure that police ought to do the job they are supposed to…the idea is that the police win the trust of the people.”

Vaibhav explains that after his intervention, more cases were registered in the year 2017. “The general feedback that I get from people now is if somebody goes to the police station, there is someone to listen to them.” However, he admits it is a long way to go, and says that a mechanism has to be in place.

On November 2, the officer received the 2019 IIT-Kanpur Satyendra K Dubey Memorial Award, which the institute attributes to Vaibhav’s “honesty, courage and professional integrity in upholding human values while discharging his duties with utmost sincerity”.

Before joining in Bhagalpur, Vaibhav was on central deputation in the National Investigation Agency and handled a number of high-profile cases during his stint. These included investigations against the Indian Mujahideen operatives, the 2013 Hyderabad blasts, Bodhagaya blasts and the Patna blasts.

When IM operations chief Yasin Bhatkal was nabbed in Nepal and brought to Bihar by the intelligence agencies, it was Vaibhav who arrested him officially and interrogated him. His investigations finally led to the conviction of Bhatkal and all other accused arrested with him.  He is also said to have been tough on Maoist while he was posted as SP, Rohtas, and making elections possible after a gap of 15 years in some areas of the district.