Indian Police Need a Fresh Value System, Not Just Modernisation

Police and policing are not merely instruments of maintaining law and order, but of effecting change, too.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Two terms used in the conceptualisation and implementation of social welfare and social engineering in India have escaped the eyes of policymakers, the public and the police in Indiaantyodaya and sarvodaya, ie, the upliftment of the most backward and the upliftment of all. Viewing the police and policing as having little or no bearing on the social fabric of a country is akin to turning a blind eye to reality.

True, its debates, discussions, deliberations, exposure to other civilisations and thoughts that bring about social change, as also constructive public dissent. Certain acts, however, have almost always been considered immoral. The morality-immorality continuum evolves continuously. Police, in modern times, are expected to protect, preserve, promote and push legal-moral values and intervene when digressions are seen.


Police are Instruments of Change, Too

When ensuring compliance with social-moral values, police and policing are not merely instruments of maintaining status quo, but of change, too. Police also help define morality and criminality. Police and policing are, thus, crucial spokes in the wheels of change.

In a charter aimed at studying how policing can uplift the marginalised sections of the society, antyodaya and sarvodaya should be the focus.

Given the quality of manpower, resources, facilities and the social millieu in which they act, the Indian police are doing an excellent job. There is, nevertheless, room for improvement.

The basic fault lines in the system are socio-economic and cultural – gender, caste, religion, regionalism, race and ethnicity. The policing system mirrors these fault lines. Unfortunately, these prejudices cloud professional ethics and the sufferers are mostly those at the bottom of the ladder – the poorer and the have-nots.

The lopsided nature of arrests, detentions, convictions and even profiles of those undergoing arrests at the drop of a hat are ample indicators. And the legal process is more likely to be easier on the well-to-do; for an ‘aam aadmi’, it is a tedious ordeal.


My Experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina

As UN peacekeepers in strife-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, where facilitating integration among the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs was our primary duty, we witnessed communities being torn apart; community flags being flown on different parts of the same police buildings/offices was a common sight; officials hardly interacted with each other. People from the ‘other communities' were treated with disdain, if not contempt, and discrimination.

One wondered whether we were any different – the stereotypes and prejudices we encountered back home were perhaps as strong. However, in an emotionally neutral environment, we did our best.

This begs the question – are most of us nearly as professional when we deal with fellow citizens? Perhaps not.

Complaints of the weaker and deprived sections of society being ignored, complainants/victims being turned away at police stations, and the lack of professionalism, speed and alacrity are subtle reminders that the need for antyodaya – the goal of uplifting the poorest – has become a casualty.

And thus, the goal of the upliftment of all – sarvodaya – has naturally fallen by the wayside.

Our social prejudices remain strong and ‘community bonding’ corrodes professionalism. At advanced levels, if assignments are decided by personal biases rather than professionalism, policing would always be a casualty, and thus, law and order, too. The media would keep getting its daily dose of news and the public trust in the police would keep diminishing.


Police Need State Support

In the welfare goals of antyodaya and sarvodaya, policing needs to be incorporated as an essential component. Without this upliftment – and that does not merely mean ‘modernisation’ – policing will remain deficient. Better equipment, housing, transport, weaponry, and work conditions are of little use unless the mindset, ethics, values and the value-systems change. Training can mould behaviour only to an extent, it is society that shapes the most ingrained prejudices.

Improved quality of manpower intake and modern training syllabus are imperative. These should aim not only at imparting training skills but equalising ‘human, moral and ethical values’ among officers, ie, drilling these down as primary reactions rather than ‘alternatives’.

With policing values equalised, the rest should start falling in place. Equal treatment by the police, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion, ethnicity, and economic status, is the test of professionalism. Laws are made that way, it is we who insert parochialism and unfairness.

The policing system, generally, has lagged, and modernisation has outpaced policing requirements. Inadequate infrastructure, poor family accommodation, stressful and extended work hours, low funds for investigation, especially scientific investigation, lack of forensic facilities, push police personnel into a corner.

The police are expected to understand and report on the pulse of the public and intervene pre-emptively, but a cop on the street is expected to use his/her might, presence, resources and power – all close cousins for corruption – to deliver professionally.

No dedicated funds are available for ‘secret work’, nor for routine tasks like ferrying the injured or deceased to the hospital or cremation grounds.


Planning From Scratch

Police are expected to ‘manage’ all this, and this ‘management’ has continued since the country gained independence. If one sees how the injured and deceased are ‘packed up’ and ‘thrown’ into police or civilian vehicles, we would be put to shame. Our Indian police have been doing these day-in and day-out for decades, which has perhaps had a dehumanising impact.

A program of antyodaya and sarvodaya for the police itself is required. Perhaps police planning needs to start from scratch – from the bottom (antyodaya) – rather than just focusing on ‘modernisation’.

A very strong case for a planned improvement in police and policing is required. Budgetary allocations for police should be revised to keep pace with the increased population and policing requirements. If the population increases by ‘n’ percentage points per annum, the state would do well to allocate and upgrade policing resources by a similar proportion. Otherwise, the police would always remain impaired, and, in turn, the internal security environment would continue to remain vulnerable, threatening the very safety of society.

(The author is an IPS Officer currently posted as DG Prisons, Homeguards and Civil Defence in Nagaland. He tweets @rupin1992. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from opinion

Topics:  Indian Police 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More