Mahanti the police officer to Mahanti
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The Kerala Police may have given former DGP Bidya Bhushan Mahanti a clean chit for his son Bitti Mahanti escaping the law for more than six long years, but in Orissa, the once well-regarded former IPS officer has little love lost.
Ironically, what is now almost forgotten is that in 2002, the same Mahanti, as inspector general of police (prisons), had ushered a breath of fresh air into the dour and dank jails of Orissa. On November 14 that year, Mahanti had started the system of sending children staying with their mothers in prisons to school. These children were allowed to go to school everyday and then return back to their mothers behind bars, though the government did not have any provision for the same.
Mahanti also made it easier for prisoners to procure parole as well as took prisoners in some jails to temples in Puri and elsewhere.
Within four years, however, the man who was once hailed as a champion of jail reforms had made a mockery of the same. Having procured parole for his son, a rape convict, from the Rajasthan prison authorities, he had broken the condition that he stay in Jaipur, brought him home to Cuttack, sought extension of the parole on medical grounds, and then allegedly let him run away. Under suspicion, Mahanti too had turned fugitive for a while.
With Bitti finally traced to a Kerala bank, with forged documents giving him a completely new identity as Raghava Rajan, not many are willing to give Mahanti the benefit of doubt that he did not know of his son's whereabouts.
In fact, had Bitti served his sentence, say his colleagues, Mahanti could have legally fought the trial court order and perhaps even earned the support and sympathies of his colleagues and subordinates.
Now, however, the man who earned his name with prison reforms will only be known for the one person he allegedly let get away.