Monday, January 19, 2009

Police Reforms in India

Police reforms in India is long overdue. The Indian Police Act 1861 (that's right, it no typo error. An act passed Four years after the Sepoy Mutiny) is surprisingly the binding precedent on all state police organisations in the country. Perhaps no country in the world follows an outdated law as we do.

The most glaring inefficiencies of the Indian police system was revealed during the recent Mumbai terror carnage. It took just ten heavily armed men to wreck an unprecedented havoc and destruction. Literally they were parading as killing machines. The Mumbai police was brought to its knees during that fateful night. Sadly our thana level police officers, armed with lathis, had to face the might of AK-47s and grenades.

In many of the CCTV footage of the terrorists, literally the police and public were running away from the those killer maniacs. It was so painful to see policemen hiding behind Victorian gothic arches and crevices (at the CST station). We can't blame them, after all most of these Railway Protection Force personnel were un-armed. (I believe only officers above the rank of Sub-Inspector in RPF are armed !!) So the killers had a free run for hours together, gambolling( I can't think of a better word) across the quiet night of the Mumbai, with a free licence to kill.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the more you engage the armed terrorists, better are the changes of the eliminating them. When half the police on ground are barely armed, serious questions are raised on the level of preparedness of the Indian police to meet up the challenges of the law enforcement.

The unmitigated valour and courage shown by the police officers is commendable. In fact NDTV reported that one of the police constable outside Cama Hsopital, actually tried warning the terrorists, mistaking them for innocent students, of the impending danger. Sadly, humanism has no place in the jargon of terrirosm. Needless to say he was killed. The tragic death of three senior IPS offciers(like sitting ducks in a car) is sordid testimony to the lack of police infrastructure. (they ran out of vehicles) To make matters worse terrorists use the same vehicle, a Toyota Qualis, (after dumping the offciers) to spread further carnage. Luckily, this juggernaut was finally subdued an hour later.

To tackle with the new threats posed by terrorism, police reforms must be accorded highest priority. Operational structure must also be radically reformed. Every thana level of constable must be a self contained warrior to meet these typ of challenges. Weaponry is a must for all police personnel, starting from the lowest level of Constable. Co-ordinated communication and more importantly strong back-up response must be institutionalised.

A 18 year old Israeli IDF soldier(where Military drafting is compulsory) is ten times better equipped than a average policeman on street today. But infrastructure alone won't fix the problem, the issue of motivation and maintaining the morale of the force must also be looked into. Maintaining law and order is one the parmaount duties of a police force. Perhaps as our Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram succinctly terms it, " Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for democracy". Vigilance on the part of the public as well the law enforcement agencies is the greatest need of the hour.

Private-public partnerships on Police modernisation can also seriously studied. For example, Hyundai Motors India Ltd. donated Accent cars to Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP). Chennai is perhaps the only metropolitan city in India, with Traffic police in state of the art sedans. we need more of these partnerships for effective policing.

I prophesize that in the near future most of the major railway stations in the country is going to be equipped with X-ray baggage scanner (like in airports) and latest security detection technologies. (already the Taj Hotels are planning to install security systems of their own). hence funding these modernisation measures is going to be an onerous task. Private players must be roped in to meet this funding requirements.

This time I have focused mainly on policing infrastructure reforms areas. But there are also other issues like corruption, Human rights preservation, Civil/ criminal procedure reforms, administrative reforms, jail reforms, citizen- police interface etc., that merits our attention. I propose to express my views in my future blogs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rights, Authority and its excercise

Humans are generally obsessed with rights. Historical documents like Magna Carta of England, Cyrus' tablet or our very own Emperor Ashoka's edicts are examples of humans attempting to enshrine the rights.

Most of democracies today grants certain rights and liberties to its citizenry. Some of the rights we just take it for granted, like the right to live etc. For most of the citizenry rights are just taken for granted, rather only when the rights are denied, we raise hue and cry over its deprivation.

Rights, by their very nature, is an anathema to power.(or to exertion of authority) But humans, as a collective entity, have always subjected themselves to power and authority. We always prefer a leader to guide us , right? Anarchism, a philosophy which advocates complete elimination of authority( or government) is yet to be successfully implemented any where in this world. hence the question of eliminating authority is impractical, at least for now. So how do we explain this contradiction. I guess like all things in life, even politics is a mix of rights and authority. Democracies gives greater priority in expanding rights, while a autocratic system tends to extend the scope of authority.

There is also a curious question of exercising the said rights granted to individuals. Mere granting of rights does not imply an individual has to exercises it. In the parody movie Monty Phyton: Life of Brian, one of the disgruntled folk talks about the desire to have babies. It is every woman's right to conceive (or abort) a baby, but the queer complication in the movie is that the person who wants to have a baby is a gent!! So finally after due deliberations they agree on the fact that every male has the right to have babies, except that this right cannot be exercised by the said individual due to factors beyond one's control. The funniest part is that they passed a resolution demanding the grant of such rights from the imperialist Romans.( they were the occupying Jerusalem , in this case they represent the authority).

So do we need rights that can be hardly be exercised?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Idea of India- Whats in a nation?

During the recent Mumbai terror carnage, folks in the media questioned whether the very idea of India is under attack. The phrase was quite a catchy one and set me on a never ending trajectory of thoughts.

First and foremost the question arises as what constitute a nation? By nation do we only refer to the geographic territory? What do we mean by the rhetoric "to defend the nation"? What are we defending here? Is it only the geographic boundary? Or are we defending more than that, like a nation's values and honour?(remember the French were vanquished in both the World Wars from the homeland, but then remarkably the idea of France did not disappear by it) Adding to the confusion is that for many of us (that includes me) have still no idea on what the "idea of India" actually means.

The seminal seeds of a nationhood was perhaps sowed in the mid-nineteenth century Europe. German unification under Kaiser Wilhelm I (lets not forget Otto Van Bismarck too), Italy under Emmanuel and the French under various Republics facade, are some the poioneering examples of nationhood in the making. In fact the idea of nationhood is not that old in many of the Euorpean nations today. In fact less than a century of emergence of nation states in Europe (Germany for example in 1871), the idea of an Indian nation was born. (in 1947 of course)

Imperialism has sowed these seeds to many of colonised and third world countries too. As Winston Churchill once notroiously remarked, "India is no more a nation than the Equator", the idea of India sprouted very rapidily. It indeed a miracle that by 15th August 1947, 565 Princely Kingdoms united with the British India, to form the India that we know today. ( once again due credits Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India's answer to Bismarck)

In as much as the idea of India emerged, the idea of Pakistan- the homeland for Muslims of Indian sub-continent also sprouted. The merits or demerits of Partition of course is beyond the scope of this trajectory of thoughts. But the example of Pakistan's partition( or Bangladesh emergence in 1971) highights one important lesson. A nation cannot be founded upon unifying trait or characteristics. In 1947, the founders of Pakistan assumed that Islam would unite the East and West Pakistan together. But the idea of Pakistan failed miserbly in this case. (partly India's mischief is to be blamed for the dissolution).

Therefore for a nation to survive, it cannot be based on a uniform trait. Belonging to a nation does not imply that every individual should possess a homogenous attributes.(say language, religious beliefs etc.) Rather my gut feeling says it is the diveristy that strengtens the idea of nationhood. Any nation that fails to accomodate this diversity is only paving way for secession tendencies. Sri Lanka's Sinhala only policy, "standardisation" of marks are examples of a nation trying to impose a homogenous identity on its population, under the guise of social empowerment.

(to be continued...)