Wednesday, August 16, 2017

100 antiquities police officers needed, 7 on the books

Laws against looting and smuggling are meaningless if the state doesn't enforce them. This simple truth is nearly always ignored by heritage protection advocates, or applied by them only to the demand end with calls for more seizures and prosecutions (calls that went unheeded until the trafficking of antiquities became linked to terrorism, which has had some salutary effect in directing more governmental attention and resources to bear). Seizures and prosecutions require funding and staffing of positions for officers and prosecutors.

Which makes this story about the Idol Wing of India's Tamil Nandu police particularly appalling:
The Idol Wing is severely understaffed and under-equipped. When it was newly formed, it was supposed to have 100 police officers. Now it has only seven officers listed on its website. Recently, the Madras High Court observed that of the 29 personnel sanctioned for the Idol Wing, 9 positions were vacant. “It is almost like a punishment post,” said Vijay Kumar. “It should be centralised and incentivised. Each of these cases take years to crack.” 
Recent events have hurt the Wing’s reputation and credibility. Two police officials who worked at the wing eight years ago have been accused of selling a set of panchaloha idols which they seized, to Deenadayalan for Rs 15 lakh. The incident was reported in January, but soon after, Inspector Kader Baccha, one of the accused, was promoted as the Deputy Superintendent of Police in another district. Subburaj, then the Head Constable of the Idol Wing, was promoted as Sub-Inspector at a city police station.
Last month, upon enquiry by the Madras High Court, both were arrested.

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