The Ankita Bhandari murder case has brought under focus the lacunae of the Patwari police system in Uttarakhand.
Questions like would Ankita Bhandari (19) have been alive today had Uttarakhand abolished the Patwari police system are doing the rounds.
What is this Patwari police system?
British government had introduced the Patwari police system with a view to cutting down on expenses in 1861. Patwaris (revenue officers) are conferred with the powers and functions of police officers.
Uttarakhand is the only state in India where revenue collection officials are tasked with the job of policing, especially in the hill regions of the State.
Irony is that no governments have ever shown much interest in doing away with this system which controls policing in around 50 per cent of the total area of the State.
People in hilly regions have often raised voice against this system demanding regular police system, but all they have received are only assurances. Even Supreme Court had in 2010 stressed the need for replacing the system with regular police, but to no avail.
“A time has come when village police system prevalent in the state of Uttaranchal in respect of distant areas would have to be changed and the distant villages would be given the protection and services of regular police," the apex court had observed.
How Patwari police system failed Ankita Bhandari?
Ankita Bhandari was last seen around 3 pm on September 18 at the resort owned by BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit in Pauri district. She was working as a receptionist in the Yamkeshwar Vidhan Sabha’s Ganga Bhojpur resort named 'Vanantra resort'.
Though she was missing since September 18, the accused (owner Pulkit Arya, resort manager Ankit, and another person named Saurabh) were arrested on September 23 who later confessed to the crime.
She was reported missing five days back but the police launched an investigation only after the girl’s family reported a missing case and feared murder. It took five days for police to take action and arrest the resort owner and other accused even though allegations had been made against them much earlier.
One may call it an accident or a regular crime, but lack of patrolling and no fear of police in hilly regions giving rise to such crimes cannot be ruled out. It is only due to lack of regular police system that a young girl was murdered as she refused the demand of the accused to extend ‘special services’ to guests.
Lack of proper policing has given rise to mushrooming of illegal resorts and destinations in the hilly state.
Latest updates on the case:
The BJP government in the State has already expelled Vinod Arya and his other son Ankit Arya with immediate effect. The resort was demolished following Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s orders.
Meanwhile, the three accused have been sent to 14 days’ judicial custody by a Kotdwar court.