I was recently invited to speak at the Nani Palkivala Memorial Lecture on ‘Police Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. When the subject was proposed, the Mumbai blasts of July 11 had not taken place. The live coverage of the tragedy, in which over 200 died, revived within me the agony of the growing limitations in providing sound security to our people.
Just before the presentation, I was asked by one of the trustees, “Are we not a soft State?” I said, “Yes I am afraid we might be sliding towards that if we do not urgently correct all contributory sources.” The mindset of the entire audience was already revealed through that one question.
I offered my presentation in three parts. One, as I saw the police services evolve during the last 34 years of my service; two, as I see it currently; and three, as I see things ahead.
When I entered the service, I experienced several avoidable practices: 1) Duality in controls — when I was expected to have a magistrate certify that I had correctly dispersed the lawful or unlawful assemblies; 2) Serious inadequacies in human resources and equipment, leading to us burning the midnight oil; 3) A very strong culture of inaccessible hierarchy; 4) Outdated tools for investigation, resulting in the prevalence of third degree treatment; 5) Human rights (with no duties) organisations starting to mushroom in big numbers; 6) Political interference starting to enter in a big way from the mid-Seventies, evident from the manner in which appointments were being made.
All of the above issues still exist. Tragically, several more have been added: 1) Criminals in political power; 2) Human rights of the accused and not of the victim given priority; 3) Innumerable newer laws, such as on drug trafficking, crimes against women, children’s rights, cyber crimes, environment laws, terrorism laws, white collar crimes, all without provision of or planning for the required infrastructure. To highlight a few of these resource constraints: Number of courts, prosecutors, investigating officers, forensic labs, training infrastructure, weaponry, prisons, etc; 4) Mobility and technology of criminals outpaces that of normal policing; 5) Better and expensive defence available for the accused; 6) Fewer convictions; 7) Unrelenting political and bureaucratic controls; 8) A deep-rooted patronage culture dominating law-enforcement professionals’ work environments; 9) And, absence of any form of succession planning in leadership or prospective planning in policing.
So where do we go from here? We have to address all the above issues and begin holistically on all fronts.
* We must work to recover the streets, villages, ghettos — urban and rural — house to house, covering all shades of faith and status. This isn’t utopian. It just calls for a determined mindset. Since trained police human resource will be a constraint, we can draw citizens out for national service. Our NCC, NSS, Scouts, Guides, Home Guards, the Civil Defence, Village Defence Councils, YMAs (in the North-east), ex-servicemen, retired personnel who volunteer and other youth movements prevalent in the country. We must mobilise, reorient and task them in a partnership to preserve and build national integrity.
* We must separate law and order duties from specialised investigation duties. This is long overdue. Without this, the conviction rate will never improve.
* There is a need for a concept of Gis-Comstat or a computerised centre, where all crimes and complaints or information received by any mode in a particular district is mapped and analysed daily, to predict and plan realistic responses. This eliminates dependence on reluctant or inaccessible police stations. Such a concept will enable a scientific analysis of city trends. This could be first initiated in the metros.
* There is a need to have laws keep up with changes in technology — laws that enable the maximum use of technology as admissible evidence. Traditional evidence would be very rare in such cases. Crimes as on 11/7 are inter-state federal crimes. Hence, the investigating agency would need to tide over jurisdictional delays. The nation must decide who it wants to believe in: the senior police officer preferably video recording the admission, or the terrorist retracting from what he said.
* There is a need for strong anti-terrorist and intelligence units at district levels, with strong technology-based institutional memory systems. Equally, there is a compelling need for a federal coordinating anti-terrorist agency to be a repository and regular hands-on coordinator.
* Brains, and not only brawn, must be utilised by opening up police department for research and analysis with strong linkages with academic institutions. These could be funded or based on scholarships. This will enable constant analysis and wider sharing of policing. Presently, with 22 lakh police personnel and an expenditure of Rs 25,000 crore, Indian Police spent only Rs 1 crore on research as compared to Rs 2,804 crore invested by the defence forces.
* There must be a plan in place for succession. While the current chief is in place, the person who will follow him or her must be identified for a smooth succession, continuity and leadership grooming. This encourages a new professional management.
* Finally, it is time we developed a security index on the lines of the financial index, Sensex, and make it a barometer of annual performance at every level — state, district, national. Leaders could then see whether India is tough or soft.
(The writer is IPS officer and former police advisor to the UN)