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Rotten police system

Rotten Police System

Urgent need to induct Army officers into the police force to bring back discipline.

A lot has been talked and written about the horrific recent gang rape in Delhi, as well as its aftermath. While the people reacted spontaneously and emotionally, there is a need to view this unfortunate incident in the light of the fast deteriorating law and order situation in the country. ‘Fear’ of the police as a deterrent to the criminals, seems to have disappeared. The reasons are obvious.

Unfortunately, the police have given their professional abilities a go-by in favour of making money, kowtowing to the politicians and bureaucrats, and harassing the common people. While the police hierarchy must accept the blame, the political leadership and their bureaucratic advisors are equally responsible for this state of affairs, because all three entities are directly responsible for governance and interacting with the public.

The politician-bureaucrat-police nexus has crippled our nation’s potential to grow into a superpower. Now we seem to be headed towards ruin. Politicians’ platitudes, and the bureaucrats and the police patting each others back, appears weird, especially when the people are groaning under bad governance. In fact, the Delhi gang rape episode reflects the breakdown of the political, bureaucratic, social and the police systems in our country; and the scant respect we have for women in our society. This rot, and the terrible wrongs being perpetrated on the people, needs to be stopped. While emotions are important, we need to look at the larger picture, and find both short and long-term solutions.

Police, and their acts of omission and commission, have brought us to such a pass that crimes are committed everyday with impunity; and they keep rising, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The media constantly highlights the steadily increasing crime graphs – the rich and the powerful getting away with the most heinous crimes; the inaction and inability of the police to curb crime; the widespread corruption in our police force; and the kowtowing of our police to the netas – but to little avail. The police needs a thorough revamping. Although the prevailing milieu has been subverted by the political leadership and the bureaucracy, it can still be brought back on track by the people; and it is heartening to see that the people have not given up. The repressive culture of the police in our country has existed for a long time. However, it has been deteriorating progressively, and now seems to have reached its nadir. Prior to Independence, the police, as an instrument of the colonial state, was widely used by our British rulers to ensure the continuity of the “Raj”. While it was a repressive force to curb dissent, the police was an efficient force in most other policing duties, from maintaining law and order, to investigations, to documenting cases correctly, to having an efficient intelligence network. It was also fairly supportive of the public.

The main reason for this was that it was led by good officers, mostly British, but some Indians, too; and a large number of mostly Captains, seconded from the army. It was on account of this that at least in Punjab a Captain was better known as a police officer than a military officer.

After Independence, as the political leadership deteriorated, so did the police. The netas became progressively more venal, only concerned with making a fast buck, institutionalizing corruption, and focusing only on elections. In this milieu, the co-option of the senior bureaucracy was almost axiomatic, as they were happy to join in the loot. This rot soon spread to the lower bureaucracy, and India transited from the ‘British Raj’ to the ‘Licence-Permit Raj’. The police soon joined the bandwagon and governance continued on its southward spiral.

The focus of the emotionally-charged nation after the shocking gang rape, is on more stringent laws and punishments, including the award of death sentences. However, mere enactment of laws would lead us nowhere. The need of the hour is to implement the existing laws, and a complete overhaul of the police system. Police reforms that have been hanging fire for decades need to be implemented. The politicians and bureaucrats do not want reforms, as they feel that this would reduce their powers and their ability to accumulate illegal money. Their chances of getting re-elected would also be seriously impaired as an impartial police force would ensure that the criminal elements in the political parties were steadily eliminated, and our future electoral process gets a long-awaited cleansing. If the reforms, including getting rid of weak and corrupt police persons, are decisively implemented, corruption would also reduce.

Today, the police are well ensconced in their inefficient, highly corrupt, abusive and violent avatar. That is the reason for major deterioration in police functioning. The only way the police can become an efficient and people-friendly force is for the politicians to introspect and desist from using the police in the improper way it is being used now.

The present system of selection of IPS officers must be discarded. Their selection and training must be on the lines of the army. It would instill discipline, character and leadership qualities in them. In the interim, there is a need to induct a substantial number of officers from the army at the level of Superintendent of Police (SP), whose services could be utilised to start the process of revamping the police force. The recruitment of the rank and file of the police must also be on scientific lines on merit, and not at the behest of the political leadership; for whom this is a good way of making money on the side, for consolidating their power centre, and for meeting promises made to kith, kin and party workers. Politicians would find dozens of reasons why the police reforms can not be implemented. But the public will have to bite the bullet if we want an efficient and progressive police force that is people-friendly and disciplined.

by: Vijay Oberoi

(The writer is a former Vice- Chief of Army Staff, and former founder Director of the Centre Land Warfare Studies)

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