Police Reforms In Indian States: Nagaland's Crisis And An Uphill Task For Forces

There is no doubt that the police in India need to shed their British-era colonial mentality & be better synergised.

5 min read
Hindi Female

The Northeastern state of Nagaland is rife with policing challenges. Firstly, it boasts of strong tribal loyalty that is virtually incontestable.

Secondly, the organisational structure in the state is predominantly Armed Police-centric due to historical reasons and the protection of traditional laws and customs as per Article 371A of the Indian Constitution.

Thirdly, shortages of finance lead to problems in fleet management, movement of manpower, and replenishment of perishable items like chemicals for forensic kits. Without the reimbursement of Security-related Expenditure (75% by MHA), the vehicle fleet would be immobile. Add to that, the inability to develop and sustain projects requiring regular replenishment eg, POL, mobile recharges, licensed softwares etc.

And finally, the hilly terrain makes navigation even harder especially when access is warranted on an emergency basis in cases.


Reform Over Uniform 

There is no doubt that the police in India need to shed British-era colonial mentality. Perhaps, most of the Indian populace identifies an average Indian policeman as a parasitic, foul-mouthed, corrupt and biased, unfriendly arm of the State and the establishment.

Perhaps, the Prime Minister’s proposed idea of police reforms at the "Chintan Shivir of Home Ministers Conference" last year, is aimed at goading the police to come out of these negative perceptions by changing the ‘attire’ itself. Though not intended, perhaps the police leadership should pounce upon this idea as an opportunity, a roadmap, and a prod to remove the vestiges and go for an image makeover. Perhaps, a mere change of attire would not be enough.

There is more required.

To begin with, the police operate within the confines of a legal framework – the Constitution of India, the Indian Penal Code, and the Criminal Procedure Code provide the much-needed uniformity. Besides these, there are the centrally-enacted legislations which are applicable throughout the country further enhancing uniformity.

However, numerous states have either enacted local-level legislation for regional-local issues or brought about local-level amendments in centrally-enacted laws which have either disturbed the uniformity or filled the gaps which exist. All these are good measures.


Colonial Age Police Manuals 

Besides these laws, there are local and regional level ‘Police Rules and Manuals’ which provide the details, the guidelines, and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for their police forces. Most such ‘Police Manuals’ are of British-era antiquity.

These manuals lend uniformity in the structure and functioning of the respective police forces but there are diversities too. Rooted as these ‘manuals’ are in the British era, these exhibit similarities too, but the differences are enough to ‘tweak the khaki’ and distort the uniformity.

The first casualty of the differences in the manuals is the diversity of training syllabi in the country. Since there is perhaps only about 70-75% consonance in the manuals, the rest of the training effort is wasteful.

An optimist may argue that learning diverse police practices is also an essential component of training but diversity should ideally come in after sound uniformity. One negative fallout of these is that at the lower and middle level, the interaction between the policemen is almost non-existent, and policing and police mindset develops in silos and compartments.

At a practical level, if the lower ranks were also to undergo similar training in cosmopolitan batch components, the room for cross-cultural understanding and transborder, Inter-State coordination would get improved tremendously. The criss-cross matrix which criminals exploit would be countered by almost seamless police coordination.

Coming to the institutional-functional aspect, though there is a similarity, greater uniformity in structure and functional roles of police forces is needed – perhaps a recommended minimal basic organisational structure with clearly demarcated functions, roles and responsibilities.

The add-ons on account of local laws and variations can be factored in besides a ‘core’. In fact, with organised crime and Inter-State crime becoming more prevalent structures for dealing with inter-district and Inter-State criminals need to be developed for both traditional crimes and emerging and neo-crimes including but not limited to service of processes to witnesses and accused, tracking and tracing the accused, collection of evidence and chain of custody of evidence, arrest, and transportation of accused persons, or even the conduct of interrogations of witnesses or suspects or accused persons and last but not the least, the trials.


How Can Policing Be Improved?

There could be numerous such areas where inter-district and Inter-State coordination and synergy could help improve the quality of policing, save time and effort and build mutual trust among the respective police forces. These areas, ideally, need to be shortlisted and Standard Operating Procedures or ‘neo-Police Manuals’ developed.

These ‘neo-manuals’ need to be uniform to ensure universal acceptance. Adoption of such an approach would also minimise effort duplication and wasteful expenditure – the wheel will not have to be reinvented by every State or district or police station.

The ensuing standardisation would help in making cross-country comparisons and police audits easier on common parameters. Perhaps, a healthy competition for innovation and universalisation of policing practices would propel better policing and it will be easier to replace the incorrect and redundant ones with more relevant and efficient ones.

For example, the police leadership would put its heads together to devise standardised practices and procedures which help overcome the prevailing shortcomings. Rather than having to always summon witnesses and suspects in-person physically or travel in search of such persons, better synergised methodologies could be developed with a local police and technology interface to speed up the investigation.

However, some such measures devised would need to incorporate timelines for implementation or rendering assistance. Searching for fugitives of one jurisdiction domestically in other jurisdictions is another task which needs a fresh look.

Despite systems and tools like CCTNS, fugitive-tracking domestically remains a tough and compartmentalised effort: either other jurisdictions and police units are unaware of the criminals and wanted persons from other places, or even if they are aware, there isn't enough effort or motivation to ‘catch’ them.

Concomitantly, not only do police and policing suffers, but also its image and the criminals get the breathing space and breeding grounds because of the relative anonymity and apathy of the system.

This can be changed through ‘Uniformity’ and innovation. Perhaps even in cases of grant of bail, with better synergy and coordination, the subjects could be made to visit the nearest police station of their residence rather than particular police stations or prolonged incarceration in jails, provided they agree to stricter surveillance measures, both personal and technological. Some such measures would not only improve the quality of policing but also shield policemen from unduly being the target of attacks for corruption or torture and the like.

Like Cricketer Suryakumar Yadav raising the bar in batting with every outing, Indian policing can make use the of the suggested idea of reform by actually extrapolating it to better all-round policing, not just attire. What needs to be dumped equally and even more is the ‘khaki mentality and inertia’ not just the fabric, colour and design.

(The author is the Director General Of Police 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.)

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