By Gyan Varma
When Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Director General Ranjit Sinha was chosen as the head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), among the first things his colleagues did for their boss —known to be a connoisseur of food — was to organise a small party with delicacies from his home state, Bihar.
But, for Sinha, the appointment might not have come as a big surprise. Since he joined the Indian Police Services (IPS) in 1974, his career has gone from one prestigious posting to another. The Bihar cadre officer has already been the chief of two organisations, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and ITBP. He is also the second chief of ITBP after Joginder Singh, who handled the Bofors case, to have been appointed as CBI director.
The 59-year-old IPS officer was due to retire in March 2013, but this assignment is expected to keep him busy for two more years. This, however, is not his first stint in CBI. Sinha was earlier the deputy inspector general of CBI, posted in Ranchi, Jharkhand, when he had investigated the fodder scam against the then-Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad. He has also served as joint director in CBI’s anti-corruption unit in Delhi.
Sinha’s appointment as director has not gone without opposition. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have argued the prime minister should have waited for the passage of the Lok Pal and Lokayukta Bill 2011, which suggests such appointments be done through a collegium comprising the prime minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
It’s rare for the Union government to name a new CBI chief well ahead of the retirement of the incumbent. The announcements for the present director, A P Singh, and his predecessor, Ashwani Kumar, were made just a day before the retirement of the incumbent directors, while former director Vijay Shankar was appointed a week after the retirement of the then director.
Although Sinha likes to keep a low profile, he has seen his share of controversy.
His first brush with trouble was with Mamata Banerjee. After Banerjee became the railway minister, she was provided security cover by RPF commandos. She continued to keep the commandos even after becoming the West Bengal chief minister.
Since Sinha was the director general of the force and RPF doesn’t have the mandate to provide security cover to VVIPs, both Sinha and the home ministry objected to it.
Banerjee took note of these objections and ensured Sinha was out of the RPF. In May 2011, he was replaced by a much junior officer and remained without a posting till September 2011.
In his 38-year career, Sinha has handled several high-profile assignments, including a security study of all prominent railway stations in the country after the 26/11 strikes on Mumbai. Sinha had suggested that a completely new set-up, armed with scanners, closed-circuit cameras, bomb disposal squads, quick reaction teams and spotters were required to protect railway stations from terror strikes.
While conducting a similar security study for ITBP, when he was posted as the additional director general (ADG) of the organisation, Sinha was sent to Afghanistan to study the safety of infrastructure projects undertaken by India. In his report to the government, Sinha had suggested the strength of ITBP be increased to avoid being attacked by Taliban and other terrorist organisations.
Sinha’s interest in handling terrorism came to the fore when he was posted as inspector general (operations) in the Central Reserve Police Force in Kashmir.
He also has experience in handling Naxalite operations. As a young superintendent of police, he served in Ranchi, Madhubani and Saharsa districts — the hotbeds of Naxalite violence in Jharkhand and Bihar.