On 28 December 2018, when 1999-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Madhukar Shetty passed away, there was a public outcry of grief. Shetty, who was being treated for the H1N1 virus, succumbed to his illness due to a severe infection of the lungs and kidneys, reported News 18.
On Sunday, when his mortal remains reached the Yedadi village in Udupi district, Karnataka, everyone from the State police top brass, ministers, residents and even villagers from Gupta-Shetty Halli—who named their village after the late IPS officer and another IAS officer, Harsh Gupta, for their invaluable service—paid their respects in a solemn ceremony, reported Bangalore Mirror.
By all accounts, the 47-year-old Shetty, who at the time of his illness was serving as the deputy director of the Sardar Vallabhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, was an exceptional police officer.
Between 2005 and 2006 as the Superintendent of Police (SP) for Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, Shetty and then Deputy Commissioner Harsh Gupta overcame wealthy plantation owners who had encroached upon government land in the area. Additionally, they also found a way to allot the recovered 64-acre plot of land on the edge of the Sargod Kunder Reserve Forest to 35 needy families who had been evicted from the nearby Tatkola reserve forest area on the orders of the State.
In other words, these officers gave 35 low-income families a chance at establishing their own homes when they had none. As a mark of respect, the villagers christened the village Gupta-Shetty Halli.
In a once Naxalism-affected Chikkamagaluru district, IPS officer Shetty regularly interacted with locals, sought to understand why some of them would end up joining insurgent outfits and given a chance would offer advice on how they could better educate themselves and improve their career prospects instead of opting for the gun.
“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,” said a former SP of the Chikkamagaluru area K Annamalai, in a conversation with The Print.
Duty came before anything else for Shetty, according to his peers and other colleagues. Unafraid of taking on corrupt politicians he was part of the Karnataka Lokayukta team under Justice Santosh Hegde (Retd.), which exposed the nefarious links between ministers in the then State government and illegal mining between 2009 and 2011.
In fact, after a thorough investigation, he had the gumption to arrest a senior minister in the government for illegally grabbing land in areas surrounding the then proposed Bengaluru airport.
Early on in his career, he was part of a Karnataka-Tamil Nadu special task force mandated to hunt down the notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, who was eventually killed in 2004.
Following the success in tracking down Veerappan, all the officers of this special task force were presented land by their respective governments. Shetty, who was a young officer, refused to accept this gift from the government stating that he was merely doing his duty.
Shetty had a real penchant for following a strict code of personal conduct. “He would never have a cup of tea without paying for it and would always wait for the change after paying his bill. This showed his integrity,” said a police officer who trained under him, in a conversation with The Print.
Unlike many senior government officials, he would never use his official vehicle for personal reasons, and in fact, according to some, had criticised a junior officer for doing so during his tenure in Chikkamagaluru, and asked him to take the bus.
However, like many other honest officers, Shetty also did struggle with a very inefficient or indifferent judicial system which sometimes did let off corrupt politicians.
Responding to one such disappointment after a reported falling out with Justice Hegde, he took a study sabbatical to finish his PhD in Public Administration from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany, New York. He returned to the force in 2016.
However, he kept encouraging younger officers to stand with integrity no matter what the obstacle. “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.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)