Thiruvananthapuram: CPM stalwart Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who passed away on Saturday leaves a lasting legacy in the Kerala Police. As Home Minister he oversaw significant reforms in the police force and in the jail department too.
Having experienced first-hand the police excesses and horrible jail conditions, he ushered in reforms in both institutions during his tenure as Home Minister. The reform initiatives rolled out by Kodiyeri ranged from the Student Police Cadet to the Janamaithri Police (people-friendly police force).
Kodiyeri was imprisoned at the Kannur jail during the Emergency. He suffered blows at the hands of the police during the students' agitations, and while participating in the rail strikes over farmers' demands.
Kodiyeri tried to reduce the alienation of the police from the public.
The first official mobile phone connection (CUG) for the police was implemented during Kodiyeri's term.
Criticisms were raised against the police, but the Home Minister kept a tight grip over the department. He curbed the practice of Marxist cadres calling the shots in police station whenever the party is in power.
There were several instances of police action, including the Munnar eviction drive, that raised challenges. But Kodiyeri kept a firm hold over the force, preventing matters from going out of control.
There were revolutionary reforms in the jail department as well.
A new work culture emerged in jail, in which those, who were released from prison, could earn their own living.
The jail was transformed into a productive centre, generating revenue for the government. Production units, including the one to make Chapati, were started. The Rs 2 jail chapati became popular.
The infamous and unappetizing gothambu unda (wheat balls) was officially stricken off the prisoners' menu during Kodiyeri's tenure. A new menu with better dishes was introduced.
The obsolete laws in the jail department were overhauled. The Prisons Act, which was framed during the British era in 1898, was amended in 2010.
The Special Rule, which pertains to the appointment of employees which was in force from 1958, was also revised.
The jail department received the largest-ever fund for modernisation also during Kodiyeri's term.
A total of Rs 154 crore was procured via the 13th Finance Commission.
Solar panels, CCTV, and modern metal detectors all reached the prisons. Kodiyeri inaugurated the Cheemeni open prison in Kasaragod, the second such jail in the state. Kodiyeri intervened when the construction lagged.
The land for the prison had been acquired in 2000.
When the jails became overcrowded with prisoners, he took the initiative for opening several jails including the Viyyur High-security jail, Hosdurg district jail, Kozhikode special sub-jail, Malampuzha district jail, Viyyur sub-jail, Viyyur women prison, Pathanamthitta district jail and Poojapura district jail.
Kodiyeri's tenure stood out for bringing in democratisation and modernisation to the Home Department.