IPS officer Madhukar Shetty died of lung- and heart-related complications in Hyderabad Saturday.
Bengaluru: Few were surprised this weekend when the death of an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer made national headlines and inspired countless tweets.
After all, Madhukar Shetty, 47, the deputy director of the Sardar Vallabhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, was an exceptional police officer, one celebrated by his colleagues and common citizens alike. In fact, Shetty has a village in Karnataka named in his honour by grateful locals.
Shetty, known for his participation in operations against the forest brigand Veerappan as well as Maoists, besides his relentless crusade against corruption, succumbed to lung- and heart-related complications Saturday. The son of the late veteran Kannada journalist Vaddarse Raghuram Shetty, he is survived by his wife and daughter.
Crackdown on illegal mining
Shetty was an integral part of the team that exposed illegal iron ore mining in Ballari, the backyard of powerful mining baron Janardhan Reddy.
During his tenure as the superintendent of police (SP) for Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, between 2005 and 2006, he created a place in the hearts of many by helping the homeless find a safe roof.
It was here that he, along with the then deputy commissioner Harsh Gupta, took on rich planters who had encroached on government land.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
In 2006, when a group of 35 families was evicted from the Tatkola forest, allegedly on the orders of government officials, Shetty and Gupta came up with the idea of allocating 64 acres of the land reclaimed from encroachers, on the edge of the Sargod Kundur reserve forest, to the families.
As a mark of gratitude, the people named the village Gupta-Shettyhalli.
“People treat him like a hero and adore him in Chikkamagaluru,” said K. Annamalai, who has worked as the superintendent of police in the area.
“What was unique to him and what I adore about him is that he would try to solve every issue by trying to get to the social cause of the problem. He had this uncanny ability to understand the root of any issue,” Annamalai added.
“He believed that every single criminal problem always had a sociological root cause that had to be identified. He would patiently address them and that is how he found solutions,” Annamalai told The Print.
In Naxalism-affected Chikkamagaluru, Shetty was known to regularly interact with local insurgents to understand why the youth was taking up arms, and also advise them to educate and empower themselves instead of waging an armed struggle.
While serving as superintendent of police with the Karnataka Lokayukta between 2009 and 2011, he was part of the team that investigated the several corruption cases filed against then chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and minister Katta Subramanya Naidu.
These investigations proved costly for Yeddyurappa, now the Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief, who ended up losing the CM’s chair in their wake.
The Lokayukta at the time, Justice Santosh Hegde (Retd), said Shetty had done “wonderful job as part of the team that exposed illegal mining”.
He also recalled how Shetty took on Naidu.
“When the decision was taken to establish the Bangalore airport in Devanahalli, Katta Subramanya began buying up land around the area,” Hegde told ThePrint. “He also began coercing people to give up their land. We received several complaints in the Lokayukta and Madhukar Shetty investigated them. Katta went to jail after the thorough investigation conducted by him.”
Dedicated to the job
Shetty, an officer of the 1999 batch, also served as SP in the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu special task force set up to track down Veerappan, who was killed in 2004.
Colleagues recall the events that followed to emphasise Shetty’s honesty and dedication to the job.
After the operation, the government offered all the members of the task force a piece of land each. Shetty refused, saying it was his duty to have been part of the operation. Such was his commitment to his uniform, said a senior police officer.
“There are only a few officers left who can stand up for what is right and never bend, that is Madhukar Shetty sir,” said one of the police officers he trained while attached to the Karnataka Police Academy, Mysuru.
“He would never have a cup of tea without paying for it and would always wait for the change after paying his bill,” said another police officer. “This showed his integrity.”
He also never used the government vehicle assigned to him for personal use. Shetty’s driver said that when posted at the Karnataka Police Academy, he would take the state transport corporation bus for visits to his hometown in Udupi.
He once even pulled up an officer who used his office vehicle for personal chores. “As SP, Chikkamagaluru, he found out that one of the inspectors was misusing the office car. He immediately ordered the car to be withdrawn from that officer and asked the inspector to take a bus and meet him at the SP office,” said an officer close to Shetty.
“Later, this decision of pulling up the officer was announced through the police wireless from the Chikkamagaluru police control room,” the officer added.
Not always rosy
However, there was also a spell of disenchantment with the slow judicial system, which many a time even let off the corrupt, and Shetty took a two-year study sabbatical. This was, however, extended by three years as he completed his PhD in public administration from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany, New York.
Even so, he would encourage younger officers not to lose hope. “Stand up for at least one thing, once in your lifetime,” Shetty would advise young officers. “You may not do everything, every time. But just take up one thing at a time and stand up for it. One thing.”
‘Like a coconut’
Friend and batchmate Vipul Kumar, currently the director of the Karnataka Police Academy (KPA), said Shetty “was just like a coconut, tough on the outside and soft within”.
“For him, it was always people first, himself later,” he added.
Shetty, Kumar said, did not care about his personal comfort, medals, awards or appreciation. For him, his service mattered, and his trainees will tell you that he is their role model, Kumar added.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.