Fear re­mains the key

Although 70 per cent of re­spon­dents in a re­cent sur­vey had “high” or “some­what” trust in police, a minis­cule por­tion (14 per cent) in­ter­acted with it. The poor, lower castes, women and chil­dren, and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties con­tinue to be ex­ploited, dis­crimin

Gfiles - - CONTENTS - by RADHIKA JHA AND VIPUL MUD­GAL

Although 70 per cent of re­spon­dents in a re­cent sur­vey had “high” or “some­what” trust in police, a minis­cule por­tion (14 per cent) in­ter­acted with it. The poor, lower castes, women and chil­dren, and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties con­tinue to be ex­ploited, dis­crim­i­nated, and fal­si­fied in crim­i­nal cases. Even the con­vic­tion rates are ex­tremely low in cases against the des­ti­tute and marginalised com­mu­ni­ties

THE police is the most vis­i­ble face of the state. The level of how civilised a coun­try is can be roughly gauged by how the police treats its citizens. Polic­ing is one of the most im­por­tant parts of gov­er­nance. A sov­er­eign state can­not im­ple­ment its pro­grammes and poli­cies in the ab­sence of an ef­fec­tive con­trol over the the police and law en­force­ment agen­cies. Philo­soph­i­cally speak­ing, no cit­i­zen is al­lowed to in­dulge in vi­o­lence, take law in her own hands, or hurt oth­ers, but the state has the mo­nop­oly over the of­fi­cially-sanc­tioned vi­o­lence and, in ex­treme cases, it can even take lives if so ne­ces­si­tated and sanc­tioned by the law of the land. Good gov­er­nance de­mands a bal­ance be­tween fair and ef­fec­tive en­act­ment of the rule of law. A so­ci­ety can­not hope to be­come just or demo­cratic if the police is not re­spon­sive to the needs of the com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly its weaker and vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions. The obli­ga­tion of the police, there­fore, is not only to con­trol crime but to do so in an un­bi­ased way, while treat­ing peo­ple with dig­nity and re­spect. Polic­ing is too im­por­tant a sub­ject to be left to the police depart­ment alone. It de­mands the in­volve­ment of citizens, academia, civil so­ci­ety and ju­di­ciary. But to pro­vide ef­fec­tive in­puts, the mul­ti­ple ac­tors need to be aware of what is wrong, and where and what is the ex­tent of the rot. This is where good and ver­i­fi­able re­search comes in handy. To mea­sure is to know, and treat­ment can­not pre­cede di­ag­no­sis. One can im­prove things not by in­ten­tions alone, but by ac­cu­rate di­ag­no­sis of the ail­ment. This is why re­search be­comes an in­te­gral part of pol­icy-mak­ing. In many parts of the world, the prin­ci­ples of game the­ory and Nash Equi­lib­rium are be­ing ap­plied to polic­ing. So­ci­eties are try­ing to find out the risks and ben­e­fits of cer­tain ac­tions of the state in­volv­ing the police. With the avail­abil­ity of big data in the dig­i­tal world, it is pos­si­ble to plot num­bers over long pe­ri­ods, and in se­lected ge­ogra­phies. Glob­ally, data anal­y­sis and sur­veys are seen as meth­ods of mon­i­tor­ing as well as pro­vid­ing snap­shots of po­licecit­i­zen re­la­tions, lev­els of im­par­tial­ity, and re­spon­sive­ness to dis­tress and crime. Sur­veys on citizens’ sat­is­fac­tion with the police were car­ried out in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Aus­tralia, among other coun­tries by re­puted aca­demic in­sti­tutes such as the Vera In­sti­tute of Jus­tice and the Pew Re­search Cen­tre. The Edel­man Trust Barom­e­ter, which mea­sures the level of pub­lic faith and trust in pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, in­di­cates that the trust of In­di­ans in their govern­ment de­clined by five per­cent­age points in 2018. While few macro-level stud­ies on polic­ing in In­dia are avail­able, many re­searches point to im­mense dis­trust in the police (Hu­man Rights Watch, 2009; Joshi, 2013). It is in this con­text that the “Sta­tus of Polic­ing in In­dia Re­port (SPIR) 2018 – A Study of Per­for­mance and Per­cep­tions” was con­ceived. Con­ducted by Com­mon Cause and the Cen­tre for Study of De­vel­op­ing So­ci­eties (CSDS), it is one of the first ef­forts to cap­ture the larger per­cep­tions and at­ti­tudes of the pub­lic about the police, and polic­ing con­di­tions in In­dia through a ro­bust

A so­ci­ety can­not hope to be­come just or demo­cratic if the police is not re­spon­sive to the needs of the com­mu­nity. The obli­ga­tion of the police, there­fore, is not only to con­trol crime but to do so in an un­bi­ased way, while treat­ing peo­ple with dig­nity and re­spect

and rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple. The find­ings were jux­ta­posed against state-wise police per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion through anal­y­sis of of­fi­cial data across dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters. The study looked at two as­pects of polic­ing – how the police in the dif­fer­ent states fared in terms of sta­tis­ti­cal data re­leased by the Na­tional Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Bureau of Police Re­search and De­vel­op­ment (BPR&D), and how they fared in terms of the per­cep­tions and at­ti­tudes of the pub­lic to­wards the in­sti­tu­tion. It also an­a­lysed the per­for­mance au­dit of police forces in dif­fer­ent states, con­ducted by the Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG).

Con­tact and Con­fi­dence: Ex­pe­ri­ences with the Police

De­spite be­ing the most vis­i­ble in­sti­tu­tion of so­cial con­trol in a coun­try with high rates of vi­o­lent crime, the study re­veals that In­di­ans have a low-level of in­ter­ac­tion with the police, with only about 14 per cent re­port­ing any kind of in­ter­ac­tion in the re­cent past. The homi­cide rate in In­dia is one of the high­est in the world, yet the level of pub­licpo­lice in­ter­ac­tion is much lower than many coun­tries for which sim­i­lar data is avail­able, such as the USA (26 per cent) and Eng­land (31 per cent). Much of this may be rooted in the high lev­els of va­cancy in police forces across the coun­try, with reg­is­tered va­can­cies of about 22 per cent at the all-In­dia level, and a high 52 per cent in states like Ut­tar Pradesh in 2016. Of those In­di­ans who have had in­ter­ac­tion with the police, a ma­jor­ity (67 per cent) con­tacted the police, while 17 per cent were con­tacted by the police. What is strik­ing here is the pro­file of those con­tacted by the police. Adi­va­sis (23 per cent) are most likely to be con­tacted by the police, fol­lowed by Mus­lims (21 per cent), Other Back­ward Castes (17 per cent), Dal­its (16 per cent) and Hindu up­per castes (13 per cent). The like­li­hood of police con­tact­ing an in­di­vid­ual is nearly twice as high among the poor (21 per cent) as com­pared to the rich (12 per cent).

OF those who con­tacted the police, one in every three re­ported hav­ing to pay a bribe to get her work done. Mus­lims, OBCs, and poor were more likely to be com­pelled to pay a bribe than the other re­spon­dents. It is no sur­prise then that In­dia ranks a poor 79 on the Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tion In­dex of Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional.

Dis­crim­i­na­tion: Within and by the Police

A pat­tern of dis­crim­i­na­tion emerges through the anal­y­sis of the of­fi­cial data re­leased by the police or­gan­i­sa­tions. Police forces have a dis­tress­ing un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­ties that have a statu­tory man­date for reser­va­tions – SCs, STs and OBCs – and the dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties that do not, Mus­lims and women. When look­ing at the five-year av­er­age (2012-16), only three (Pun­jab, Ut­tarak­hand and Delhi) of the 22 se­lected states in the study were able to meet the re­served quota for SCs; six states (Bi­har, HP, Kar­nataka, Na­ga­land, Te­lan­gana, Ut­tarak­hand) were able to ful­fil the re­served quota for STs; and a slightly higher num­ber of nine states (Andhra Pradesh, As­sam, Jhark­hand, Kar­nataka, Ma­ha­rash­tra, Odisha, Pun­jab, Te­lan­gana and Ut­tarak­hand) were able to achieve the reser­va­tion bench­mark for OBCs. None of the states were able to achieve the 33 per cent bench­mark for re­cruit­ment of women. Con­versely, nearly all the states have dis­pro­por­tion­ately higher rep­re­senta-

Police forces have a dis­tress­ing un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­ties that have a statu­tory man­date for reser­va­tions – SCs, STs and OBCs – and the dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties that do not, Mus­lims and women

tion of SCs, STs and Mus­lims in the pris­ons, com­pared to the re­spec­tive pop­u­la­tion of these com­mu­ni­ties. Out of 22 states, this is true for Mus­lims in all of them, SCs in 18 states, and STs in 19 states. While the dis­posal of crim­i­nal cases is uni­formly bet­ter in all states than the

dis­posal by the courts, it is the dis­posal of cases against the SCs, STs, women, and chil­dren which suf­fers the most. The dis­posal per­cent­age by both the police and courts against the above groups is much worse than the over­all dis­posal in nearly all the states. For in­stance, while the over­all con­vic­tion rate is 75 per cent, the fig­ure for cases against women is 21 per cent, SCs is 25 per cent, STs is 20 per cent, and chil­dren is 32 per cent. A sim­i­lar theme emerges from the sur­vey find­ings as well, with more than three out of four re­spon­dents re­port­ing that the police dis­crim­i­nates on var­i­ous grounds, in­clud­ing caste, class, re­li­gion, and gen­der. Only a lit­tle less than half the Mus­lim re­spon­dents (47 per cent) be­lieve that they are falsely im­pli­cated in ter­ror­ism-re­lated cases.

Trust, Sat­is­fac­tion and Fear

De­spite the sev­eral sys­tem­atic dys­func­tion­al­i­ties, rang­ing from high va­can­cies to a highly-dis­crim­i­na­tory setup, we found that the gen­eral pub­lic’s trust in the police is sig­nif­i­cantly high. Nearly a quar­ter of the re­spon­dents re­ported “high trust”, and just a lit­tle less than half (45 per cent) noted that they were “some­what” trust­ing. The lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion, on the other hand, were pre­dictably high­est in ar­eas where the in­ci­dences of crime had de­creased over the last five years. Here again, though, a high vari­a­tion ex­ists be­tween the lev­els of dis­trust among lit­er­ates (4 per cent) and non­lit­er­ates (13 per cent) with the non-lit­er­ates be­ing three times more likely to dis­trust the police than the lit­er­ates. Marginalised com­mu­ni­ties such as OBCs, Dal­its and Adi­va­sis (8 per cent each) are more likely to be dis­trust­ful. Haryana and Hi­machal Pradesh have the high­est re­spon­dents (71 per cent and 70 per cent, re­spec­tively) re­port­ing pos­i­tive per­cep­tion of the police, much above the all-In­dia av­er­age of 26 per cent. Pun­jab has the least pos­i­tive per­cep­tion, with less than one in 10 re­spon­dents re­port­ing a “very pos­i­tive” per­cep­tion.

AL­MOST in­con­gru­ous with the high lev­els of trust and sat­is­fac­tion, a large pro­por­tion of the re­spon­dents, 44 per­cent, si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­ported fear­ing the police and its ex­tra-ju­di­cial tor­ture in some form. Pun­jab stands out as the most fear­ful state with nearly seven in 10 re­spon­dents be­ing fear­ful of the police.

Con­clu­sion

The larger story of police in In­dia – as it emerges through the study – is a story of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. While it en­joys a high de­gree of trust, sat­is­fac­tion and faith by the pub­lic, a ne­ces­sity in a func­tional democ­racy, a look at the more nu­anced find­ings re­veals the ex­clu­sion of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties from the ben­e­fits of polic­ing. In nearly all the in­di­ca­tors, whether in the sur­vey or in the anal­y­sis of of­fi­cial data, there is a clear pat­tern of dis­ad­van­tage to­wards the SCs, STs, OBCs, Mus­lim, women, poor, il­le­gal ad mi­grants, of­ten over­lap­ping cat­e­gories. This is an im­por­tant as­pect that needs to be recog­nised and ad­dressed in any ef­fort for bring­ing in police re­forms in the coun­try. The per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion by CAG of police and pris­ons in dif­fer­ent states tells a sad tale of struc­tural in­ef­fi­cien­cies and mal­prac­tices. With un­ex­plained and un­scrupu­lous di­ver­sion of funds, un­der-util­i­sa­tion of re­sources, ab­sence of ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties, and sub­stan­dard in­fra­struc­ture, it is al­most in­con­ceiv­able how the police sys­tem con­tin­ues to re­main in­tact and to earn the trust of the pub­lic. Un­less these struc­tural is­sues, whether of in­fra­struc­ture or of dis­crim­i­na­tion, are cor­rected, In­dia can­not hope to mean­ing­fully re­form its crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

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