There are many firsts when it comes to Rajeev Kumar.
He is the first Kolkata police chief who has an office in the state secretariat, sources in the secretariat said. As an IPS trainee, he finished first among 85 others in an 11-km race at the National Police Academy.
There have been 21 officers who have held the mantle of the Kolkata police in independent India. But traditionally, the Kolkata police officers have been at Lal Bazar, away from the administrative headquarters, either at Writers’ Building or the new secreteriat. “He (Rajeev Kumar) has an office space at Nabanna. It is without precedent and he gives a daily briefing to the CM. It is a reflection of how important he is,” said a source.
But for Rajeev Kumar, a 1989-batch IPS officer, who turned 53 last week and is now in the centre of an unprecedented standoff between the CBI and the West Bengal government, this wasn’t always the case. Described now by Mamata Banerjee as one of the best officers in her state, Kumar had once been at the receiving end of her vitriol. “On more than one occasion, Banerjee had attacked Rajeev Kumar and alleged that he had been snooping on the opposition on behalf of the Left Front government,” said a retired IPS officer.
In fact, within 24 hours of coming into power in May 2011, she had enquired about Kumar and sources said that he could have been shunted had it not been for senior officials supporting him and describing him as an “excellent officer”. Key to Kumar’s rise in the ranks was his stint at Salt Lake when the Saradha scam broke and the state police were accused of not progressing speedily with the probe.
The CBI has been attempting to try and question Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in trying to locate “crucial evidence” in the larger conspiracy behind the chit fund scams, outside the state and allegedly involving “influential people”. The CBI claims that as the evidence collected by the Special Investigative Team (SIT) formed in April 2013 to probe the Saradha scam includes a laptop, five cell phones, documents and a diary that allegedly belong to Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen.
Originally from Uttar Pradesh, Kumar is a BE in computer science from the erstwhile University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee) and is married to an Indian Revenue Service officer. “He is among the most tech savvy officers in the state. In a state like West Bengal, that has traditionally been slow to take to technology, he is almost an anomaly,” said a colleague of his.
It is his ability with electronic surveillance that has separated Kumar time and time again and has also put him in the cross-hairs of political parties. Ahead of the 2016 elections, BJP president Amit Shah referred to him as the “snooping cop of Kolkata” and alleged that he “conducts illegal surveillance and interception on (opposition) leaders”. Shah demanded that the EC remove him and said that Kumar was behind a purported sting of former BJP state president Rahul Sinha.
As per senior police officers, Kumar developed his skills in electronic surveillance during his days as the special SP, CID. “As a member of the Special Task Force that had aided Mamata in cracking down on the Maoists in Jungle Mahal. There are many who believe that that when Chhatradhar Mahato was lured into a trap by STP officers posing as journalists, Kumar was in the vicinity and was involved with the operation,” said a CID source.
A contemporary of Rajeev Kumar described the 1989-batch IPS officer as someone “who never forgives or forgets”. He said, “He is someone who is defined by his tenacity. He is not someone who forgets or even forgives.”