A legal eagle, surrounded by a battery of juniors, commanding a hefty fee for every court appearance, or a High Court Judge, is what he may have become, almost two and a half decades since his graduation in Law from the Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak. But “the long gestation period” that the black gown entails was not quite this Bathinda born young man’s tall glass of lassi. Blessed by his lawyer father Parkash Chand Aggarwal and his mother Devaki Devi, a home maker, he decided to throw his hat in the Civil Services ring. And struck khakhi in his maiden attempt in 1994.
What action the courtrooms may have missed, the investigation chambers of the police department have gained. For almost half his twenty three year long stint in the Indian Police Service, Mahesh Aggarwal has been an ace investigator. A seven year deputation with the Central Bureau of Investigation in Chandigarh was followed by a four year innings with the CB CID and Special Investigation Division of the Tamil Nadu Police. A Master of all wings of policing, the other half was divided between hard core Law & Order and Traffic roles – both in districts and the city.
Systematic and efficient almost to the point of being a perfectionist, Mahesh has made a mark in all his postings. I first saw him in action as a young Superintendent of Police of Theni during my election coverage for NDTV. Known for its caste clashes, he ensured peace in the district and also handled prohibition challenges resulting in an award for the ‘Best Enforcement’ in the late nineties. His next halt was at Tuticorin, just as sensitive. “By streamlining the functioning of police stations, I was able to focus on crime prevention, investigation and execution of non-bailable warrants.”
When Ms.Jayalalithaa returned to power in 2001, I remember a birdie in the Home Ministry telling me that the Chief Minister wanted a young no nonsense officer to be posted as the Deputy Commissioner of Police – Flower Bazaar in North Chennai. At that time, the Secretariat Security came under the Flower Bazaar district. Mahesh, it appears, was handpicked for the job. Not only did he handle security at Fort St.George admirably, he brought down “night crime to zero” by forming Special Patrol Teams of civilians, selected and trained by the police. The initiative was sponsored by local businessmen in the area. With his legal background, Mahesh came to grips with the nitty gritty of intellectual property offences and launched a massive crack down on video piracy. Maintaining the tempo in his next posting as the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) South Chennai, Mahesh worked hard to “reduce fatal accidents” which he was able to ensure was the “lowest in the decade.”
Remember the lyrics of that Paul Young number “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home”? Wherever Mahesh has been posted, he has made an impact and won awards in the process. Under his leadership, the Anti Corruption Branch of the CBI in his home town – Chandigarh was adjudged the ‘Best Branch’. Several trap cases and establishing territorial jurisdiction of the CBI over Punjab & Haryana were accomplished. The CBI deputation gave him a wide turf – Punjab & Haryana, Himachal Pradesh & Jammu & Kashmir. A Police Medal for Meritorious Service and the Chief Minister’s Medal for Distinguished Service were a reflection of his track record.
Back to his parent Tamil Nadu cadre, Mahesh’s investigative acumen was put to good use by the top brass of the Tamil Nadu police. As the Inspector General of Police, he was posted as the second in command of the CB CID. A Special Investigation Division (SID) was formed under instructions of the Chief Minister to crack the spate of murders of Hindu leaders by fundamentalists. Mahesh was given the dual charge of the SID. A storming operation in Putur in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh yielded a big catch of three dreaded extremists. During his tenure, several high profile cases were transferred to the CB CID, many on orders of the Madras High Court. Directly supervising sensational cases, the CB CID solved the murder of a TCS employee in 36 hours and had all the three accused convicted. The murder puzzle of an elderly psychologist in Chennai was also unravelled. Modest and unassuming, Mahesh gives all the credit to his “bosses and the team.”
Three and a half months ago, a massive police reshuffle and promotions saw Mahesh shifted out of Chennai to the temple city of Madurai as the Commissioner of Police. The fighting fit top cop swung into action from the word go. Surprise visits to police stations, a slew of welfare measures – revamping creches, gyms at the Armed Reserve unit, off days on the birthdays and wedding anniversaries of police personnel, regular grievance redressal – of both the police and the public, out reach programmes like blood donation camps, an impetus to awareness drives in traffic, crime prevention and social media interface made headlines in the local papers. “The role of the public in crime prevention can never be underestimated. “I have been rewarding members of the public whenever they help us in nabbing criminals.” Like an auto driver who caught a law breaker or a fourteen year old boy who gave a chase to a chain snatcher and overpowered him with the help of others.
A complete family man, Mahesh never misses an opportunity, albeit rare, for a quiet getaway with his wife Dr. Vaneeta, a Professor of Management Studies at the University of Madras and recipient of the ‘Best Research’ award. Their collective brilliance has trickled down to their daughters. Arshita, who was ranked second in the Law Entrance Examination from Tamil Nadu managed a hop, skip and jump to the premier National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, where she is now in her third year. Gunisha, a Class 9 Student of PSBB is an avid debater and quizzer. The family loves to eat out but in moderation with a careful eye on calories. Aside of long walks, the power couple participated in three half marathons together. To hit the road running has, after all, been his credo.
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Bestselling Author, TV Political Commentator, Public Speaker & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)