Monday, November 3, 2008
If there is one factor which will determine the success or failure of the Indian state in combating terrorism, it will be our commitment to improving the efficiency and performance of the police which includes the intelligence agencies also. Much has been said on the subject. With the government dragging its feet in the matter, the Supreme Court had to intervene and issue comprehensive guidelines to the Centre and the states on September 22, 2006. The apex court gave six directions to the states and one to the Union government. The directions to the states were aimed at insulating the police from extraneous pressures, giving them functional autonomy, making them more accountable, separating investigation from law and order duties in the metropolitan towns, introducing transparency in the selection of police chiefs, and giving a statutory minimum tenure to officers posted in the field. The central government was directed to constitute a national security commission, co-opting the heads of the central police organisations and involving them in decisions to upgrade the effectiveness of the forces and improving the service conditions of its personnel. There has been some compliance, but mostly in the smaller states. The bigger the state, the more entrenched the vested interests, greater the resistance. The Supreme Court has constituted a monitoring committee to oversee the implementation of its directions in various states. It is obvious that unless the judiciary cracks the whip and makes an example of one or two non-compliant states, things would not move and the much needed reforms would remain an aspiration. That would be a tragedy for the country. You cannot face formidable challenges of the present times with a police force which was raised to meet the challenges of a medieval past. The issue is not of empowering the police. It is of having a police which look up to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country in the discharge of their functions. The harsh truth is that the police today are more concerned with carrying out the diktat of the executive rather than protecting the life and property of the common man. There are a number of other administrative measures which would need to be taken to give greater muscle to the police. We are heavily under-policed. The police-population ratio in India is 1:694. It is 1:334 in the US, 1:290 in the UK and 1:416 in New Zealand. What is worse, even with less manpower on the ground, there are huge vacancies in several states. According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s statistics for the year 2006, as against a total sanctioned strength of 12,09,904 civil police including district armed police as on December 31, 2006, there were only 10,91,899 policemen on the rolls. The vacancies were particularly acute in UP (1,19,893 against a sanction of 1,33,595) and Bihar (43,273 against a sanction of 56,341). The state governments have themselves to blame for these shortfalls. The recruitment procedures also leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, it is tainted in most of the states. In UP, a scandal was unearthed in recruitments and 12 IPS officers were suspended. But unfortunately, follow-up action was not taken to its logical conclusion. The UP government does not have the courage to nail the political bigwigs who were at the root of the scam and the central government, for political reasons, is not prepared to hand over the investigation to the CBI. A constable who pays to be recruited cannot be expected to be honest. It is like poisoning the roots. The procedures need to be cleansed. The examples of Karnataka and Rajasthan could be emulated. Modernisation of police forces should get high priority. The Centre has been liberal in releasing funds. Here also, the state governments have been tardy in properly utilising them. Training remains a neglected area. As recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily, the deputation to training institutions must be made more attractive in terms of facilities and allowances so that the best talent is drawn as instructors. Besides, training should focus on bringing attitudinal change in police so that they are more responsive and sensitive to citizens’ needs. Intelligence will have to be professionalised. It is presently geared more to collecting intelligence about political adversaries rather than elements trying to disrupt peace and communal harmony. The Intelligence Bureau needs substantial augmentation in its strength, which has been ordered now. The multi-agency Centre also needs to be beefed up. R&AW was defanged by one of the former prime ministers. The organisation must be given teeth. The law enforcement agencies would also need legislative back-up. A stringent anti-terror law should be placed on the statute book. An extraordinary situation, as the Law Commission, said, calls for an extraordinary law. Besides, as recommended by the Malimath committee, the Padmanabiah committee and recently by the Moily committee, the country must have a federal investigating agency. Anyone can see that the state police spokesmen are making contradictory claims and there is inadequate coordination among them. A centralised agency would obviate turf wars and ensure better coordination among the states. The stakes are very high. The threat is getting magnified with every passing day. Our first line of defence has to be strengthened. There is no room for any further delay.