Rayees Ahmad Kumar
One could love him or hate him for his flamboyant style and aggressive enforcing of traffic rules in Jammu & Kashmir, but this Odisha-born IPS officer, an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), is certainly not one to be ignored.
Basant Kumar Rath’s tenure as IGP Traffic landed him in a series of controversies for his style of action. The 2000-batch IPS officer had become popular for his straightforwardness on social media. The people eagerly looked forward to his posts on Facebook and Twitter. He was a force to reckon with, unyielding when he caught anyone riding a bike without helmet.
His strict attitude and dauntlessness won many hearts. Today he has more fans and followers from JK on social media than any other politician or celebrity. This is all because of his zeal towards streamlining the system. When he was posted as IG Traffic, he used to check traffic management himself. Not only in Srinagar city but in almost every district he overhauled the traffic system. He didn’t spare anybody irrespective of their status or affiliation. Many a time he challaned paramilitary vehicles and even police vehicles parked in wrong places. They were handed notices to explain their misdoings. I myself have seen many a time Rath directing male passengers to vacate seats for females.
The VIP culture, Rath disliked it wholeheartedly. He believed that actions speak louder than words. On Sundays he used to roam in Srinagar’s busiest Sunday market, where he used to greet people and listen to their woes. It reflected his attachment with the land and people of the valley. Sometimes on the banks of the Dal Lake near Boulevard road, people surrounded him and took selfies with him. He never refused anybody nor did he get annoyed by it. Rath’s Kashmir attachment is further evident from the fact that his Twitter handle runs under the name @kangri carrier. Kangri (fire pot) is an inseparable part of Kashmiri culture.
In addition to this, Rath has taken many social initiatives to help people in distress. Using social media platforms, he helped youth, especially poor ones who could not afford costly books for competitive exams, get books for free. He has distributed books among thousands of students worth lakhs of rupees across JK. This unique quality has made him popular among the young generation.
A couple of days ago, when news came about Rath’s suspension by the home ministry, people without wasting a second took to social networking sites to express their anger against the move and to support Rath. Some even went on to write, “Basant, you don’t need domicile certificate. Entire Kashmir is with you.”
All this shows that public service is the best kind of worship. When your intentions are right, you are bound to receive applauses all round.
The writer teaches at Govt BHS Anderwan Ganderbal