Indian police system needs reforming: Toronto Police chief Alok Mukherjee

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Sunday, December 5, 2010

TORONTO - Toronto Police Board chairman Alok Mukherjee, the highest-ranking public servant of Indian origin in Canada, wants India to quickly roll back its colonial-style policing system for its own good.

Policing in India is influenced by political interference and it should stop, the soft-spoken Mukherjee told IANS at his office in Toronto Police headquarters Thursday.

“India inherited its policing system from colonial rulers who treated people as enemies and used police to control them. But today’s India needs a police system that is dedicated to public service,” said the unassuming chairman who often travels to his office by subway trains.

The 68-year-old Mukherjee, who came to Canada in 1971 as a student, regretted that India treats its police officers well, but not the constables who do the actual policing work. “Look at their cops’ salaries which are very low. This is an invitation to corruption in policing.”

He said India would benefit if it opted for the Canadian model of policing which brooks no political interference and attracts talented people with good salaries.

“But I am happy that the Indian prime minister and others are talking about police reforms. When my police commissioner Bill Blair and I visited Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad earlier this year, they showed a lot of interest in our policing system,” said Mukherjee who has been the Toronto Police board chief since 2005.

“Unlike India where police is an arm of the state, here in Canada policing is the responsibility of the local (municipal) community. We at Toronto Police serve only the local community, no political leaders,” he said.

Thanks to his efforts, the 5,600-strong Toronto Police - the biggest city force in the country - has hired more than 30 percent officers from visible minorities since he took over five years ago.

Kanpur-born Mukherjee, who taught English for five years at Delhi’s Shri Ram College before he came here in 1971, said the Indo-Canadian community has come a long way since then.

“When my wife and I came here to do my masters in English from the University of Waterloo, there were few Indians in this country. But look now… we are a million strong and have done very well in politics, businesses, professions,” said Mukherjee.

He said he never regretted his decision to stay back when he got a job with the Toronto Board of Education after finishing his MA.

But the initial journey in Canada for Mukherjee - who later went on to become vice chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and serve as an advisor to the Toronto mayor - was not all that pleasant.

“There were some unpleasant examples of racism. But Canada has changed, though I won’t say that racism has disappeared. But give credit to our community which didn’t take things lying down,” said Mukherjee who always attends Durga Puja and other festivals in the city which has more than 8,000 Bengalis.

A voracious reader and avid writer, he said, “I have an on-going contract with Orient (Longman) in India to publish four books. My book ‘This Gift of English’ came out last year, and I am currently working on another book on the literature of Dalit writers.”

As befits his current profession, he said he reads detective novels in his spare time.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at

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