Long Way to Go Before Ruler’s Police Transforms to People’s Police
Improving living conditions and ensuring fixed tenure are few measures that can revamp the Indian police force.
Improving living conditions and ensuring fixed tenure are few measures that can revamp the Indian police force.(Photo: The Quint)

Long Way to Go Before Ruler’s Police Transforms to People’s Police

Quality of leadership is critical for the success of operations by the security forces. It is equally crucial for the police to adorn a people-friendly face.

Leadership qualities displayed by BSF officers during neutralisation of three militants on 3 October in Srinagar is worth emulating. This is how one should lead during combat and ensure preparedness of troops.

Unlike other fidayeen attacks, the alert sentries eliminated one militant in the first few minutes. Another was neutralised within the first hour, and the third one a little later. The young company Commander on the spot not only guided and supervised his troops, but also coordinated with Frontier Headquarters located a few kms away.

Displaying remarkable alacrity and coordination, two BSF DIsG of Frontier Hq quickly mobilised the Quick Reaction Team (QRT), and eliminated the last surviving militant.

Also Read: BSF Camp Attack: Contingency Plan Worked But Need Long-Term Vision

Lack of Professionalism Ails the Police Force

In contrast the above feat was the inept leadership displayed by famed IPS officers during the midnight lathicharge by the Uttar Pradesh Police at BHU on 23 September, or the violence unleashed in Panchukula by the Haryana Police after Baba Ram Rahim was convicted.

Both these incidents smack of inaptitude and lack of professionalism, and are not isolated incidents, if one were to take into account the way the Jat agitation and the arrest of Baba Rampal was handled.

Such was the enormity of inaptitude that it would take considerable effort for the police to recover from ignominy. Leadership was conspicuous by its absence from the scene, and junior subordinate officers had to handle situations way beyond their mental and legal capabilities.

Instances of failure of the police leadership far outnumber the achievements of the men in khaki.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that the foremost cause of a sorry state of policing in India is the incompetence of leadership provided by the IPS officers. Poor leadership and the willing acquiescence to political masters is the reason behind depleting law and order in many parts of the country.

Most of them lack an understanding about investigative techniques which is reflected in poor quality investigation. It’s no surprise that the conviction rate has fallen from 62.7 percent in 1974 to 40.2 percent in 2013.

When senior police officers are party to making unsavoury comments about victims, the way it happened in Aarushi case, it reeks of intellectual deficiency in the police hierarchy.

Corruption at Various Levels of Police Hierarchy

Corrupt practices such as “hafta” is considered a rightful due. A police constable, entrusted with the verification of passport, considers it to be his right to “chai pani”.

The DG UP Police recently stated that investigations are on against an Inspector General for releasing a criminal involved in the Nabha jailbreak. A DCP of Delhi Police has been accused of amassing disproportionate assets worth a few hundred crore.

The DIG prisons Karnataka has alleged undue favours being granted to Sasikala by one of her seniors.

Two former CBI chiefs are in the dock for corruption/collusion with criminals. And if that was not enough, we have a case of another police officer in Madhya Pradesh being stripped of the Gallantry Medal awarded to him some 15 years ago, as it was revealed that he had faked the encounter.

A caveat needs to be added though – there are some very upright and outstanding leaders too. I got an opportunity to work with three such outstanding leaders, namely Mr Chaman Lal of MP Cadre, Mr EN Rammohan of Assam Cadre, and Mr S Ramakrishnan of Bengal Cadre. Many officers, including myself, consider them as our role models.

Need for Reforms

The apologists often cite non-implementation of reforms as decided by the Supreme Court and political interference for all ills.

It is true that despite the Supreme Court judgment in Prakash Singh vs Union of India case, reforms have not been implemented by state governments, but that is not the only reason behind the inefficiency of police.

On the contrary, it appears that police reforms is a convenient bogey, and many belonging to the IPS fraternity are not interested in the implementation of these reforms, as the prevalent system offers scope for manipulation.

The reforms mainly seek to:

(a) insulate police officers from pressure,

(b) transparency in posting, transfers, and security of tenure,

(c) separation of investigations from law and order, and

(d) setting up of a police complaints authority to check abuse of power.

Ruler’s Police vs People’s Police

In a recent article, Prakash Singh (published in The Indian Express, 29 September 2017) has contended that the police should be released from the clutches of politicians. Does he imply that the police should be an autonomous organisation that is not answerable to the political executive?

That cannot and should not happen. The police should be answerable to the executive, with certain clauses that ensure officers are not removed from service at the whims and fancies of their political masters.

Police officers often contend that the Police Act of 1862 is the culprit for giving rise to “ruler’s police” and not “people’s police”. The act was implemented by the British to perpetuate their power and control the Indian masses. It is further contended that the act had created a “force”, whereas it should be defined as a “service”.

Improving the Living Conditions

Work pressure adds on to the stress of an average policeman, the problem is compounded by the fact that adequate boots on the ground are not available. Diversion for VIP security is just one facet of the problem, many police personnel are diverted and misused for personal errands by senior officers and their families.

Leaders should ensure that funds for police modernisation are utilised not just for acquiring equipment, but also enhancing policing and investigative skills of the officers. There is a dire need for initiatives that can improve the living and working conditions of the Jawans and “Thanas”.

Also Read: Lucknow Policemen Brawl: Men in Khaki and Graft Go Hand in Hand

Can Political Intervention Ensure Transparency?

The government on its part needs to overhaul the selection process of IPS officers, which is elitist and based only on the ability to secure high scores.

It may be a good move to promote experienced and capable police personnel from within the police ranks through competitive examination.

As the police struggles to gain confidence of people, it is upon the leaders to stem the rot by self-correction.

Also Read: Politician-Police Nexus: Appointments, Transfers Explain It All

(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general. He can be reached @sood_2 . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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