It has been only 12 days since Basant Rath took over as Jammu and Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police (Traffic) but he is already creating buzz for all the right reasons. The 2000-batch IPS officer who fined and seized a police vehicle for plying without a registration number plate at Jammu city’s Bikram Chowk, a few days ago, has become a hit for his innovative ways to manage traffic. Interestingly, this action had come after Rath had issued a stern warning to his seniors through a social media post.
On Saturday, Rath issued an advisory for plying of school buses in Jammu and Kashmir, asking them to strictly follow the stipulated guidelines. The advisory said that school buses need to be painted yellow, with “on school duty” written on the back and the front. It added that all school buses must have first aid kits, speed governors of specified standard, window grills and fire extinguishers.
In his post, Rath had warned policemen against violating traffic rules. “My dear seniors who think I’m all gas on Facebook and Twitter and no guts on streets. Please ask your PSOs to drive their bikes without wearing helmets. I’ll ruin their day. And yours. I don’t think I love you,” he had said in a post on social media. Since the incident, Rath has been compared to popular Bollywood protagonists like ‘Singham’ and ‘Dabangg’, something that he does not take fancy to.
Ladies and gentlemen, I took charge as IG, Traffic in the afternoon today. Please leave all your complaints, suggestions and feedback on the traffic police FB page. We’ll be accountable. I’ll be accountable. My personal email id is email@example.com.
— Basant (@KangriCarrier) February 9, 2018
Rath, who has been vocal about his intentions on social media platforms, is turning his words into action. Recently, he seized a luxury car for wrong driving in Gandhi Nagar area. The vehicle belonged to an Army officer who is the son and son-in-law of serving IPS officers.
He hasn’t been shy about expressing himself either. “Using helmets while driving was like using condoms as both were meant for protection,” Rath had recently said, drawing a lot of criticism. Congress legislator Usman Majeed called this an “indecent and insensitive” post and accused Rath of acting like a goon, demanding his immediate attachment.
My Dear Senior who thinks I’m all gas on FaceBook and Twitter and no guts. Please ask your PSOs to drive their bikes without wearing helmets. I’ll ruin their day. And yours. I don’t think I love you.
— Basant (@KangriCarrier) February 14, 2018
To this, Rath responded by saying that he is a human and is in a hurry. Rath added that he expects himself to commit mistakes but also to learn lessons from it. “I promise I’ll improve Jammu’s traffic situation. And myself,” he had said without mentioning Majeed.
Good morning, Srinagar. I’ll come to you this week. I plan to target the cops who think traffic rules are not meant for them. If they don’t wear helmets, if they don’t respect traffic lights, if they think their bikes are aircrafts, I’ll make things unbearably difficult for them.
— Basant (@KangriCarrier) February 11, 2018
Rath promises that in 90 days, Jammu and Srinagar will emerge as two of the best Indian cities in terms of traffic management. “I need your active cooperation. I’m asking for it. Because I know for a fact I deserve it. I deserve a chance. We deserve a chance,” he said.
However, the journey won’t be an easy one for Basant Rath. His actions have already been criticised by people. The social media has been flooded with memes and jokes ever since Rath took over as IGP (traffic). “Ab na toh fogg chal raha hai na hi jio Abhi toh bas Basant Rath ka khouf chal raha hai,” a netizen said on his Facebook page, apparently referring to a popular advertisement of a perfume brand. The reaction from the political front hasn’t been great either.
Dear politically well-connected interest groups, my name is Basant. I do what I do.
— Basant (@KangriCarrier) February 11, 2018
Yet, this isn’t the first time that Basant has found himself amid controversy. In 2016-17, he had written articles for The Wire and The Indian Express, which were labelled as ‘dangerously critical of the government policy’ and ‘brazen violation of the IPS service conduct Rules’ by the IB. The Ministry of Home Affairs had also asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to take strong ‘disciplinary action’ against Rath.
The IG (traffic) who started his new job on February 9, is not affected by any of this. “Dear politically well-connected interest groups, my name is Basant. I do what I do,” he had recently said, adding that his work would speak for himself.