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 Perhaps no country in the world follows an outdated law as we do.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.

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