[ Amar Sangno ]
Attending the 76th Independence Day celebration at Dera Natung Government College in Itanagar, I hastily scanned the state awards’ list. Finding a lone person in the gold medal list, a sense of contentment ran through my belly. Surprisingly, none from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer community made the list of the state awardees. I felt I had a reason to smile.
Call me a naysayer or a cynic, I just don’t care. Let me justify: I have nurtured cynicism towards the unabated ‘gold rush’ of certain top ranked officers for the state awards.
Years back, the state awards were ostensibly reserved for IAS and IPS officers. Their slight movement could ensure them a gold medal. The IAS and IPS officers whose tenures were on the verge of ending were rewarded with state gold medals. This became a tradition.
On the contrary, the deserving, hardworking local officers, especially those who are lower-ranked, are often overlooked and their outstanding services are not recognised. This often happens in the police department.
Seemingly, the degree of craze for the state gold medal among IPS officers has gone beyond unimaginable extent. The case of an IPS officer posted as the superintendent of police in Lower Dibang Valley district, who recommended himself for the gallantry award by providing fake evidence and claiming that he had showed exemplary courage by leading an operation in Bomjir, where a gang of miscreants was chased down by the Roing police, is a testimony.
Allegedly, the ‘evidence’ was created by taking a bullet proof jacket and firing at it from one of the miscreants’ pistol and presenting it as a ‘hit’ that occurred during the operation. Thanks to the home department for rejecting his application and citation instantly.
The lower-ranked officers who actually led the operation were left fuming and fretting when they learned that the SP had recommended himself for the gallantry award.
The surrender of 14 NSCN operatives in Longding on 28 July was similar in nature. It was reported that, out of the 14 ‘surrendered’ operatives, 12 had already left their respective outfits 8-10 years ago and had been living normal lives. When contacted by The Arunachal Times, one of the former operatives said that they were called by the police for an ‘official surrender programme’, after having been told that they probably didn’t have a ‘clearance certificate’ from their former outfits.
Parading the former operatives, who had buried their past lives a decade ago, was an act of scratching their wounds and stigmatising them in the society. It is a known fact that most of the surrenders occur because of the interference of clan members who convince misled operatives to give up guns and live normal lives.
This year’s announcement of one gold medal, 11 silver medals and 17 commendation certificates on Independence Day is a welcome reformative step and a significant move to restore the dignity of the state gold medal.
Moreover, the Awards Rules’ Section 3 (Clause VII) states: “Awards of gold medals shall be recommended only in rare cases where the work done forming the basis of recommendation involves outstanding merit, exceptional contribution to public service, bravery risk of one’s life which cannot be envisaged to fall within the normal sphere of duty of government servants and conscientious citizens.”
The state awards were started in 1972, with the awards being conferred on individuals from different fields, based on recommendations, and there is no restriction on the number of recommendations.
Revisiting an article that I had written over the same issue five years ago (20 February, 2017) – which one may find in our web archive – coinciding with the 30th Statehood Day celebration, I heave a sigh of relief now.