The Journey Of the IPS officer who said “Pehle Action, Baad mein Section”

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A  boy hailing from the Delanga block of Puri district goes on to study at the prestigious Mayo College in Ajmer. There were plenty of obstacles ahead of him. He fought and successfully overcame all hardships in life. He  fulfilled his dream of becoming an IPS officer and eventually became the first and only Odia IPS officer to hold the post of Police Commissioner of Mumbai, ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’ (India’s foremost city). Arup Patnaik is revered as one of the most dynamic and respected IPS officers of the Maharashtra cadre. Short and stocky with the agility of a boxer this bold and fearless police officers heroics and contribution to the police department remains an inspiration for scores of new joinees in the force. Mr. Patnaik, who was appointed the Mumbai police chief in 2011, had served Maharashtra Police in various capacities during his 36-year-long distinguished career before retiring from service in 2015.

He was born on 8th September, 1955. At a very early age, he came in contact with Biju Babu on whose insistence he was sent to a boarding school for completing his studies. Mr. Patnaik recollects, “Before I could realize what a boarding school was, I was sent to Mayo College, Ajmer. It was altogether a new world for me. I was low on confidence and didn’t know how to interact with others in proper English or Hindi. Six months into the school, I felt homesick and I once wrote a letter to my father to take me back home. But soon I realized that I should not give up rather overcome the challenges coming my way. Subsequently, I made amends in my personality and outlook that miraculously changed the course of my career. I started performing consistently both in studies and sports like football and boxing. Since then I have never looked back.”

Mr. Patnaik briefly worked with the State Bank of India prior to joining the Indian Police Service in 1979. “After successfully cracking the civil service exams, I had chosen the Odisha cadre followed by Maharashtra. But there was no vacancy in Odisha cadre.Hence by default, I was given the Maharashtra cadre,” he said.

Mr. Patnaik was first posted as probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police in Nashik in 1981. He knew Nashik was an influential district and hence he was up for the challenge. He recollects an incident in Nasik that made him a household name. “On that fateful day there was an auto-rickshaw strike in Nashik. I was returning home after playing badminton when I saw a few agitators forcibly stopping vehicles from plying on the road. Perturbed, I questioned them regarding their activities but in retaliation, I was pushed by them. Boxer in me retaliated, I regrouped myself and punched one of the agitators there. I got to know that the person whom I had punched happened to be the son of a local MLA(Laughs Mr.Patnaik). I saw many agitators running angrily towards me. Judging the heat of the situation, one of my colleagues came to my rescue and asked me to leave that place immediately to avoid falling into any untoward incident. The news of a police officer assaulting an MLA’s son spread like wild fire in the city. Soon a bandh in Nashik was called in protest against my actions. I got to know that the agitators and a few MLAs had demanded my suspension. But fortunately, the police department and my SP stood by me like a pillar. I am glad they handled the entire incident smoothly,” he says.

This was the early eighties and Nashik back then was different. Kingpins of gambling dens and country alcohol dens ruled the roost. Few days after the incident, Mr. Patnaik was asked to raid the illegal establishments thriving in the city. He was quick to jump into the business. Armed with hockey sticks and clubs he and his posse not only raided the illegal establishments but also ended up bashing the offenders black and blue. His activities drew mixed criticism though many thought his actions were  much-needed.

He was subsequently posted as Superintendent of Police of Latur from 1983 to 1986. Mr. Patnaik was the second SP of Latur. His stories of taking on the political heavyweights in the region are often discussed even today. He is credited with checking crime in Latur as the district SP during his tenure. “Back then legendary Marathi actors Ramesh and Seema Deo and their theatre group were in Latur for a play. But they were manhandled by the local hooligans. The incident also drew ire among the state ministers who wanted a strong and bold police officer to deal with the case. They said, there is a police officer who is beating up  criminals and he is the best person to handle it. That’s how I landed up in Latur.” Says Arup Patnaik as he sips tea and narrates this incidence in his drawing room surrounded by books on almost every subject.

Days after taking over as the new SP of Latur, he used his old tactics, he was best known for. With the help of local constables, he clamped down on various illegal bars, brothels and hotels and in the process beat up miscreants. Latur never had a bold SP like him before. So, after the news regarding his actions got flashed on newspapers and channels, local people used to wait in front of his house for hours to catch a glimpse thereby catapulting him into a popular-figure in the region.

Mr. Patnaik was then transferred to Nagpur from 1986 to 1988 and then to Jalgaon from 1988 to 1991.Mr. Patnaik  played a vital role to control the crime activities there, thanks to his bold and quick actions that continued to instil fear among the criminals and build respect and love in the hearts of local citizens.

But the major turnaround came in the year 1991 when he was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone VII) of Mumbai in 1991. During the early 90’s Mumbai was under the grip of illegal smuggling and gang-infighting. Gangs ruled the town and had a share in everything from Bollywood to the building boom. The mob had no one face but had a share in everything and whoever went against either was cajoled or beaten or eliminated. He  knew that a huge challenge awaited him but that never deterred his fighting spirit. Soon he intensified the night patrolling anticipating the spurt in illegal activities in Mumbai then. Reminiscing an interesting incident, the 1979-batch IPS officer says, “We conducted a surprise raid on a illegal bar late at night. The bar operator wasn’t willing to co-operate with us during the inquiry. Sensing lack of support from him, I gave him severe blows using the hockey sticks. Later, we got to know the bar that operated inside the hotel belonged to a notorious associate of Dawood Ibrahim. We even severely beat him up using a hunter when he arrived at the scene.” The incident once again got him into the front page of every newspaper the next day because an underworld don’s associate has never been assaulted like this before and humiliated in public. This was Arup Patnaik’s way of retaliating to mob brutality.

During his stint as DCP in the western suburbs, he was one of the key officers who took part in the infamous 1991 Lokhandwala operation in which Dilip Buwa and Maya Dolas were killed. His deft handling of communal riots in Mumbai was also praised from all quarters. He was the investigating officer of the 1993 Mumbai serial Bomb Blasts case and instrumental in the largest ever seizure of RDX, to the tune of 1500 kg at Mumbra in 1993. A team, led by former additional commissioner A.A. Khan and Arup Patnaik, also raided Dagdi Chawl, gangster Arun Gawli’s stronghold and nabbed key shooter Tanya Koli with a large cache of arms and ammunitions.Acknowledging his valourous efforts, he received the Indian Police Medal for meritorious service in 1994 thereby reasserting him as a daredevil cop.

Mr. Patnaik then went on deputation to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Govt. of India in 1994 and was assigned the critical charge of supervising investigations into the multi-crore Harshad Mehta security scam. As D.I.G., C.B.I., he headed the Bank Security and Fraud Cell, a Central Unit of the CBI, which was concerned with the investigation into complicated and Mega Bank scam cases. Further, he held the important charge of Additional Commissioner of Police, South Mumbai, during the period 1999-2001. He then headed the State Reserve Police Force (S.R.P.F.) as Inspector General of Police from 2001 to 2005. He was also the main architect of the Arms & Ammunition policy for the State of Maharashtra. He was moved back to Mumbai Police Commissionerate as Joint Commissioner of Police (Law & Order), a post which he held between 2005 and 2007. It was during this tenure when he handled the disastrous flood that happened in July 2005 and serial bomb blasts in 2006. Subsequently, he held the post of Additional Director General of Police (Traffic), Maharashtra from 2007 to 2011. In 2011 Mr. Patnaik was appointed as the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. During his stint as the Police Commissioner, he had set his eyes on shutting down various illegal establishments. Mr. Patnaik also raided several bars in western Mumbai, which were the favourite hangouts of members of the underworld. From doing sit-ups to beating the law-offenders using hockey sticks, he always tried his level best to keep the crime and criminals in check. This earned him the title of ‘Bar Busting Cop’. During those days ‘Ek Haath Mein Gita Doosre Haath Mein Joota.’ was a quote often attributed to him.He retired in the year 2015 after 36 years of service for Maharashtra police, as Director General of Maharashtra State Police Housing and Welfare Corporation.

The veteran IPS officer’s sheer commitment and hard work has paid rich dividends in the form of accolades in the past. Notably, he had received the President’s Police Medal for his distinguished service in 2003 and is also a recipient of Indian Police Medal for meritorious service in 1994.

From communal riots to encounters, the police department had always reposed faith and confidence on Mr. Patnaik. He too retaliated by jumping into the scene and thereby leading from the front. “Be it early morning or midnight, I was always available to help the police department. I got to learn so many things by virtue of facing the critical situations. The only principle I followed was ‘Pehle Action, Baad mein Section’. I enjoyed taking the lead as it gave me a high. But it had both pluses and minuses as well. Every time the expectations from me were sky-high. But I never wilted under any pressure rather delivered whenever I was supposed to,” he said adding that receiving death threats was a normal affair for him but that never bothered him. “Cowards die many times before his death, the valiant never tastes of death but once,” he reiterated Shakespeare’s phrase.

The former Mumbai police chief’s heroics and fearlessness personality has been the fodder for several Bollywood films in the past. For instance, in the 2004 movie AAN: Men at Work, Bollywood action star Akshay Kumar essayed the role of DCP ‘Hari Om Patnaik’, which is a combination of his father’s first name (Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia) and that of  Mr. Patnaik.In another critically acclaimed Bollywood film Black Friday, actor Sharad Ponkshe’s character was loosely based on Arup Patnaik. Notably, the film, directed by Anurag Kashyap was adapted on screen from a book with the same name written by Hussain Zaidi. Zaidi has dedicated an entire chapter on Mr. Patnaik and his handling of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case.

After making a mark as a top cop, he had a clear vision about his future. Post-retirement he could have asked for a service extension or joined a corporate entity but instead he joined the ruling Biju Janta Dal (BJD) in the presence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, earlier this year. When asked regarding his decision to foray into the political arena, he said, “I have joined BJD as a worker of the party. I have always loved my job and worked for the common people as a police officer. Now I will serve them through Biju Janata Dal. See my father was a good friend of Biju Patnaik and he was always an idol for me. Towering, over 6 feet, proud, well spoken and commanding he always wanted to do something so that the name of Odisha would shine across the world. If you document his life his stellar achievements even today make people wonder. I feel Odia youth need a change in philosophy and I felt this was the best platform to give back to my home soil on a bigger scale.”

He was appointed as the executive chairman of the newly-formed State Youth Welfare Board. The board will look after Biju Yuva Vahini, a volunteer programme which was launched with an objective to nurture leadership and volunteerism, promote sports and sportsmanship, and healthy living among the youth of the state. “Biju Yuva Vahini is a medium to empower youth and inspire them in a positive direction. Just like Biju Patnaik I would like to see more leaders created in every block, village and district who are able to take on the challenges of 21st Century. We are covering 28 districts in the next two months under the programme. I find pleasure in meeting youngsters. My only aim is to guide them and share my experiences to boost their morale. If my little contributions could make a big difference in their lives, then I would be the happiest person on earth,” he stresses. Though speculations are rife that Mr. Patnaik might contest the 2019 general elections, he is only focusing on the commitments he has been assigned as of now.

After his retirement from the service in 2015, he has been associated with a number of philanthropic and non-profit organisations. He is one among the trustees of Mumbai-based Konark Cancer Foundation that works for the cancer-stricken patients and provides them logistical as well as financial support. He has also been instrumental in ensuringvocational training to several youth in his village.

Mr. Patnaik has a piece of advice for today’s youngsters. He says, “The opportunities today ahead of youngsters are vast and humongous. Follow the path that you wish to traverse and stay focused till the end then nobody can stop you from achieving the goals. Do not regret on the missed or failed opportunities. Make your weaknesses your strengths! What is important is a right kind of attitude and approach towards life.”

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