Rising crime, slack policing, brutal assaults on women and cops slapping and kicking protesters -police forces across the country have been drawing flak for their fiascoes and missteps.
While angry people are routinely taking to the streets in several states in protest against the police failure to check atrocities on women and weaker sections of society and their inept handling of volatile law and order situations, the Supreme Court, taking exception to a police officer slapping a young girl during a protest in Delhi and the assault on a 65-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh recently, has described such incidents of police excesses as an insult to the country.
"Even an animal won't do what the police officers are doing every day in different parts of the country," the apex court said. There are similar instances of policemen going berserk or showing insensitivity in other northern states also. While there have been some shocking episodes of police brutality on women and negligence in rape cases in Punjab, the policemen in neighbouring Haryana are also often found wanting in response and sensitivity while dealing with crimes against women and atrocities on weaker sections in the state.
In one instance, a Dalit family of five last week attempted suicide in Hisar (Haryana) after being allegedly harassed by the police over their missing daughter, a rape victim; only one of them survived. An inspector general (IG)-rank officer blamed the under-staffed, ill-equipped, inadequately-trained and demotivated police force for this situation.
"The biggest problem is the multiplicity of tasks that the police have been given, which results in poor response, monitoring, investigation and conviction rate, and has consequently led to erosion of faith in their capabilities," he said, requesting anonymity.
A compilation of comparative data of the state and UT police forces for 2011-12, sent by the union ministry of home affairs (MHA) to the state governments last month, reflects huge staff shortage, lack of adequate representation to women, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, inadequate training and low conviction rate. There are also wide variations in the police-population ratio, with 164 policemen per lakh population in Haryana as compared to 261 in Punjab (see infographic).
Chandigarh, which has one of the highest police-population ratios in the country at 629 policemen per lakh population, also reported the third highest rate of cognisable crimes (Indian Penal Code) at 335 per lakh population in 2011 against the national average of 192.
Prakash Singh, a former director general, Border Security Force, told Hindustan Times that the police were in a shambles and completely under the thumb of the executive, carrying out political directions, right or wrong, lawful or unlawful.
"There is lack of accountability and connections, not competence and integrity, matter. We need a professional police force, which gives primacy to upholding the law of the land in all situations. For this, the police should be insulated from all kinds of pressures, officers given security of tenure, the police-population ratio improved and training levels raised. Police reforms are the only way out," says the retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, on whose public interest litigation (PIL) the apex court issued the directions to the state governments on police reforms.