Mohit Garg (PGP 2012), District Police Chief of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) Hub
- Supervision & control of 30 units with strength 7000+; Strategically planned & executed ops resulting in 50% reduction in LWE violence
- Appreciated by the Election Commission of India for ensuring free, fair & peaceful elections with highest ever voter turnout despite threats
- Supervision & control of 80 units with strength 18000+; successfully controlled LWE activities: 344 insurgents arrested & 42 neutralized
- Created short movies, local dialect songs & android games to raise awareness about LWE violence & to encourage surrenders
- Started community policing initiative ‘Manva Puna Bijapur’: reached out to 35000+ villagers (25000+ youth) to promote peace & equality
- Received National Award 2018 for ‘Security Management during elections’ in worst LWE affected district from the President of India
- Conferred one of rarest honors for bravery by Indian Police – 1st Bar Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG) for leading successful missions
- Selected for World Governance Expedition Singapore & Asia Pacific Young Leaders Conferences in Thailand & Sri Lanka
- Awarded Shield by State Cabinet Minister for crime & incident free conduct of 20-day Rajim Kumbh Mela visited by >2.5 Mn people
Many congratulations on your wedding. How did it go, especially with the current pandemic restrictions? Considering the fact that I am based in Delhi and my better half is from Bangalore, the covid restrictions made the whole event hectic. Initially, we planned a wedding in Delhi but had to shift all the arrangements to Bangalore at a short notice due to resurge in Covid-19 cases after Diwali. But, the good part was that we saved a lot of money that would have gone behind the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ dreams.
How has IIMA shaped you as a person? IIMA was a life changing experience for me, primarily because that was the first time I actually went out of my comfort zone after pursuing my schooling and engineering from institutions very close to my home. IIMA was a different territory altogether, and the kind of diversity I had around quite influenced my transition. In terms of leadership, it was the first time that I tried my hands at a student body election. I was a Secretary during my tenure and it was a wonderful experience. The amalgamation of everything shaped my path of joining civil services, to some extent.
From big corporate dreams to Public Services – what influenced this transition? I drew the inspiration for joining civil services from my father, who encouraged me to see it as a prospective career because of the scope of impact on the larger society. I wanted to complete my studies, so I opted for IIMA where we had a chance to interact with many senior bureaucrats during a course in the second year. Other than that, there was also a perspective that we built about how the private and public sectors are entrenched. That was also the time when PPP was a buzzword, highlighting that there is a synergy possible between the two sectors. Following this, I was also driven by a course on energy management, working with the Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad, interaction with foreign exchange students and more that transpired my interest in joining the Indian civil services.
How easier and how difficult it is to effectively address the Left Wing Extremist insurgency holistically? In pockets like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Telangana and certain parts of Andhra Pradesh – Left Wing Extremist insurgency continues to be a major internal security challenge due to its origin. It started with an ideology where lordships were taking control of the entire land and engaging the residents in bonded labour, depriving them of basic rights. Over the years, the resistance to such an existence drifted to violence, petty fights, and attack on the democratic systems at large. This situation also became a means of earning illicit money through multiple sources, mostly contractors. The problem affects a major part of the population in these areas, but it is worthy to note that the population in sheer numbers is much lesser as tribal areas are very scarcely populated. For instance, currently, I am in the Narayanpur district in Chhattisgarh where the area is approximately 7000 sq km, but the population is only 1.5 lacs – which is probably one of the lowest population densities in the country or even the world. Amongst the 1.5 lakh people, more than a lakh still live in the garb of fear, uncertainty and insecurity because of Naxalism. This applies to the entire Bastar and multiple other pockets of the country, making Left Wing Extremist insurgency such a serious problem. Secondly, there exists dichotomy and goonism. On one hand, you will find press releases or political wing of insurgents wanting equality for tribals and villages from the government, but on the second hand, the organisation does not let development happen. There are instances where they have vandalised roads, hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure for water, electricity or mobile towers. This manifestation over time has led to the rise is goonism. In these circumstances, the locals do not have access to the mainstream government and are left at the mercy of armed goons – leaving serious repercussions. This is why the work that we do in these insurgency prone areas has become so important for the government and people.
The Government has formulated a National Policy and Action Plan adopting a multi-pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlement of local communities etc. How difficult is the implementation or execution? It is frankly quite difficult. I shall try to explain the same through an example, for instance, let’s say there is a village which is at a distance of 20 km from the district headquarter. Currently, the village does not have the basic amenities like road, school, PHC or hospital. This village also falls under a settlement, let’s say, of 7-8 villages that fall under the same Panchayat, with a population of roughly 500 to 1000. So, these people are living under the threat of Naxals who move freely in these areas – with guns or without guns. Under these stressful circumstances, we start to try and defend the problem by building relationships with the villagers gradually. This process takes a lot of time considering the fact that Naxals are frequent in these areas and have the tendency to kill the villagers mercilessly.
So, to whatever extent a villager is empowered or eager to join the Government – the fear of life is always consistently present at all times. At our level, we try to give them the confidence to reach the government or administration, followed by providing other facilities such as infrastructure development. So, if you venture into the village which was at a distance of 20 km and unconnected, it is now well connected and flourishing with basic amenities like education, healthcare, government jobs, self-employment and more. This whole process of creating a safer environment takes immense efforts and a lot of time.
You have received the highest accolades for an immense contribution towards combating Left-Wing Extremism, especially National Award 2018 for ‘Security Management during elections’ in the worst LWE affected district from the President of India. What is your success mantra? The election was definitely a challenge. I was posted in district Bijapur that time and it is the second most adversely affected area in terms of left wing insurgencies with more than 15, 000 security personnel deployed in a single district to counter Naxalism. So, during elections, the Naxals do not only push away the villagers from casting a vote, but also attack them, as elections are not part of their agenda. Considerately, there have been instances where the fingers and thumbs of villagers, who have casted a vote, are cut by the Naxals. Apart from such instances, the Naxals continuously change strategies and interventions, for example, planting explosive devices or ambushing near polling booths. Aware of the damage that can happen, we had to tighten the security to maximum levels and simultaneously make the villagers comfortable with the fact that they would be safe during the election beyond the deeply entrenched fear of the Naxals. So, I started a community policing initiative named ‘Manva Puna Bijapur’, which is a Gondi term meaning ‘Our new Bijapur’. Through this initiative, we reached out to and interacted with 35000+ villagers (25000+ youth) to promote peace and equality – over a period of one year before the election. Simultaneously, through this initiative, we liaised with local administrative departments, as we started incorporating change through night camps, cultural programs, education & awareness tours and immersive connections – making the locals understand the available facilities by the government and avenues that would imbibe in them the need of participation in democracy. Following the constant efforts, the election phase did not report of any regular incident related to Naxalism or causalities, which was a big thing to experience.
You have also been conferred one of the rarest honors for bravery by Indian Police – 1st Bar Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG) for leading successful missions. Please share your experience. Basically, all the missions that I took part in were mostly during my Additional SP tenure in district Bijapur. Also, a lot of my missions and operations are planned in core areas where the insurgency presence is very high and it isn’t possible for other departments to go. So, in these high-risk pockets, I always feel that if I am sending personnel to risk their lives, I should also be a part of such missions, risking my life too. This is extremely difficult following many reasons, like, walking in the toughest terrains for 25-30 km a day. Also, during these missions, we cannot use the tracks that are being used by locals due to threats, such as the Naxalites deployed improvised explosive devices or spikes or ambush. These threats are accompanied by setbacks like no network connectivity and non-availability of medical assistance. So, being part of such missions for a good 6-7 days, have led me to understand the ground realities that my teams generally face and solutions that can be incorporated. There was this particular mission which was planned for 4 days, but I extended it for 2 more days following intel that there is a movement of some 15-20 armed Naxalites, 5 km south-east of our location. That mission was dangerous, but a success as we managed to arrest 3 Naxalites who are serving sentence in jail currently.
You were also awarded Shield by State Cabinet Minister for crime and incident free conduct of 20-day Rajim Kumbh Mela visited by more than 2.5 Mn people. This is completely different from combating Left-Wing Extremism. How did you manage? I understand that the two are completely different domains, but if I talk about the Rajim Kumbh Mela, it is a mini Kumbh Mela for Chhattisgarh. It is big in terms of population ratio/proportion of the state, meaning high probability of instances like pickpocketing, robberies, molestation, drunk incidents, rampant road accidents, difficult traffic movements and a lot more. The 20-day Rajim Kumbh Mela needed a tedious and labour-intensive preparation of more than 30 days. We inculcated technology, CCTV deployment with extensive monitoring and patrolling with a ready reporting mechanism. We gave the utmost priority to traffic monitoring as it was the major motion net, along with an active disaster response team that could tackle the storm during the mela without any causality. Also, we established a strong communication-information network with the government and also the other stakeholders – considering the sentimental values of religious events of this calibre.
Further, to compare this event with Naxalism prone areas – there the situation is very different, uncertain and also involves fear of life – making it a completely different ball game. In normal regions, there always exists some form of law & order where there may be loss of property, but the chances of loss of lives are fairly negligible. The challenges in both domains are different, but the basic thing that is common between the two is how we build a dialogue and establish trust with people.
You have brought together many creative solutions like short movies, local dialect songs, android games etc. to raise awareness about LWE violence and to encourage surrenders. Please share a bit more on these initiatives. I think this is where I am always being thankful to IIMA that gave me a perspective on marketing, branding, understanding consumer behaviour and more. So, if we take the government as a service provider and everybody as a consumer, we can definitely have a clear understanding of creative solutions to communicate what we want to do and how we want to do it.
For example, if we consider Bastar that is considered nothing beyond the heavy insurgency. In my view, beyond everything else, this place is vibrant in culture, heritage, scenic beauty and environmental diversity. So, if we draw inspiration from the surroundings to bridge the existing gap in communication – there is nothing better than creative solutions that would work best in these areas.
When not in uniform, what are the little things that you enjoy the most in life? I majorly focus on fitness and reading books. In areas of good network connectivity, that I rarely get, I enjoy Netflix as a luxury and unwind over the good old days.
<Transcribed from video interview>