Exhorting chief ministers to enhance the capability of their police forces to meet internal security challenges and to ensure preparedness to meet terrorist threats, Home Minister P.Chidambaram said on Monday their foremost responsibility was to fill up the glaring police vacancies.
"While I had indicated the vacancy position as on January 2008 as 230,567 posts in all ranks, it appears that the vacancy level may have declined to about 150,000. Even this is too large, and state governments must make every effort to recruit and begin training of police personnel at least to the extent of 150,000 vacancies before 31st March next year," Chidambaram said in his concluding remarks at the chief ministers conclave on internal security.
He made his displeasure amply clear when pointing that only 12 state governments had responded to a questionnaire that was circulated at a similar conference in January.
The questionnaire related to budget allocations for the police, recruitment, training, procurement of equipment, introduction of technology and personnel management.
Reiterating that the police was at the forefront to meet the challenges of internal security, Chidambaram said they required "strong leadership".
"The police forces require strong leadership. How can an officer provide leadership if his or her tenure is precarious and uncertain? I urge states that have not yet established a police establishment board to do so immediately," the home minister contended.
"The police establishment board will in no way diminish the authority of the chief minister or the (state) home minister. On the contrary, it will greatly help them in conveying the message of fairness and non-discrimination, and they can always intervene in exceptional situations."
Detailing a series of steps that needed to be undertaken to secure both the hinterland and the coastline, Chidambaram said both the centre and the state governments should step in a big way to augment training capacity, especially for counter-terrorism and jungle warfare, quicken the procurement of weapons and set up a separate intelligence cadre.
"There are inadequate training facilities for intelligence gathering and intelligence analysis. The union government may consider setting up regional intelligence centres to train state intelligence personnel in intelligence gathering and intelligence analysis," said Chidambaram.
Speaking at the inaugural session earlier Monday, the home minister bemoaned the fact that state governments were not pitching hard enough to the tasks ahead, especially the task of removing deficiencies.
Some of the pressing responsibilities included operational preparedness of Quick Response Teams, strengthening of state special branches and intelligence wings, development of guidelines for security of places with large footfalls, police reforms and better police-community interaction, besides issues of border management.
Chidambaram also pointed out that the strength of police stations, especially in rural and remote areas, was "totally inadequate" and there was a dire need to boost their numbers.
"This is totally inadequate. For a police station to be effective, its strength should be at least 41 personnel. State governments may augment the strength of police stations," he pointed out.
Chidambaram also listed other important steps that needed to be undertaken on a war footing, including road building in border as well as Maoist affected areas, financial assistance to establish coastal police stations as many were outdated and honing both megacity and desert policing.
He also said the central government would consider imparting Territorial Army training to fishermen for a period of four months when they do not engage in fishing.
While emphasising that the communal situation in the country had improved, the home minister there still were pockets of strife and disharmony.
"If numbers can tell a story - or at least point to trends - it appears that five states are rather sensitive. I intend to write to the chief Ministers of these states and request them to pay special attention to this matter."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his speech, singled out Maharashtra and Karnataka and said they needed to be more vigilant.