Po­lice re­forms: Fixed term for top posts a cure worse than the dis­ease

Ef­fec­tive po­lice re­forms will in­volve a re­haul from the con­stab­u­lary up­wards. A fixed term for top posts is a cure worse than the dis­ease

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - Ajay Singh ajay@gov­er­nan­cenow.com A ver­sion of this com­ment has ap­peared on First­post.com.

In the dis­course of gov­er­nance in in­dia, no term is as much abused as ‘po­lice re­form’. The ques­tion is: re­form from whose per­spec­tive? should it be fo­cused only on elite in­dian Po­lice ser­vice (IPS) of­fi­cers or also in­clude the con­stab­u­lary? The an­swers to these queries lie in the grey ar­eas.

in its July 3 or­der, the supreme court, it seems, mis­took re­form for an ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sure like fair se­lec­tion and job se­cu­rity to the dgp. it is like ad­dress­ing the symp­tom with­out both­er­ing to look into the rea­sons be­hind the deeper malaise.

By any mea­sure, the dgp is hardly the ful­crum of the in­dian po­lice sys­tem. The lynch­pin of in­dian polic­ing is the con­stab­u­lary. if you have any doubt, look at the records. in the 2008 Mumbai ter­ror­ist at­tack, it was the courage of a con­sta­ble that turned the ta­bles as he caught aj­mal Kasab and put Pakistan on the de­fen­sive across the world. in rou­tine bat­tles with Maoists and Jammu and Kash­mir ter­ror­ists, the con­stab­u­lary is more of­ten than not in the front of the first line of fire, bear­ing the max­i­mum brunt of ter­ror­ism.

Then why this ob­ses­sion with the fixed term of the DGP or other posts oc­cu­pied by the elite ser­vices? The sc or­der of mak­ing it mandatory for the state gov­ern­ment to se­lect the dgp through the UPSC and en­sur­ing a fixed term is flawed on many counts. It as­sumes that hav­ing a trans­par­ent se­lec­tion process for the DGP with a fixed term would re­ori­ent the po­lice to be sen­si­tive to peo­ple’s con­cerns.

The re­al­ity is that the fixed term for elite ser­vices of­fi­cers would be a cure worse than the dis­ease. The rea­son is not far to seek. safely en­sconced in the fixed term, most of these of­fi­cers tend to play sec­ond fid­dle to their po­lit­i­cal bosses and let the or­gan­i­sa­tion run as their per­sonal fief­doms. The ex­am­ple has been set by the cen­tral Bureau of in­ves­ti­ga­tion (cbi) and the en­force­ment direc­torate (ed), whose suc­ces­sive chiefs, though granted a fixed term, could hardly do any­thing to im­prove the qual­ity of the or­gan­i­sa­tions. Rather, they ex­ac­er­bated the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.

in fact, the po­lice re­form en­tails a re­vamp of the en­tire se­cu­rity structure, which is not only de­crepit and frag­ile but also in­cor­ri­gi­bly cor­rupt and per­verse. and much of it has to do with the ten­dency of po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tives to re­tain the po­lice as their mus­cle­men. But more sin­is­ter is the will­ing­ness of

In fact, po­lice re­forms en­tail a re­vamp of the en­tire se­cu­rity structure, which is not only de­crepit and frag­ile but also in­cor­ri­gi­bly cor­rupt and per­verse. And much of it has to do with the ten­dency of the po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive to re­tain the po­lice as its mus­cle­men.

IPS and state ser­vices of­fi­cers to play along with po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tives and let the po­lice work as their po­lit­i­cal tool.

This is the pre­cise rea­son why most state gov­ern­ments ig­nored for years the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the sc’s com­pre­hen­sive or­der of septem­ber 2006. The apex court, in the judg­ment in the Prakash Singh vs Union of In­dia case, had asked the cen­tre and the states to com­ply with seven di­rec­tives which had es­sen­tially two aims: func­tional au­ton­omy and en­hanced ac­count­abil­ity of the po­lice force. The his­toric judg­ment is now merely his­tory.

The most glar­ing omis­sion has been the wel­fare of the con­sta­bles, who are the ac­tual in­ter­face with the cit­i­zens. For in­stance, the train­ing of po­lice con­sta­bles and subin­spec­tors is the most ig­nored as­pect of po­lice re­form. in the coun­try’s most pop­u­lous state, ut­tar Pradesh, which boasts of a po­lice force larger than that of many coun­tries, po­lice­men are trained in the most cav­a­lier man­ner. Most of the po­lice train­ing camps across the state lack fa­cil­i­ties which are es­sen­tial for con­sta­bles.

in Bi­har po­lice con­sta­bles, once drafted into the ser­vice, have never been able to go back to a re­fresher course on ac­count of work pres­sure and lack of re­sources. Po­lice sta­tions lack ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties that of­ten de­hu­man­ises the po­lice force and make them vul­ner­a­ble to petty cor­rup­tion and ul­ti­mately crim­i­nalises them. The cul­ture of killing petty crim­i­nals in stage­m­an­aged en­coun­ters across the coun­try is a symp­tom of this de­hu­man­i­sa­tion and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of the po­lice force.

iron­i­cally, none of this can be stopped by merely let­ting the dgp, igp or the SP have a fixed term. Far from it, such a sit­u­a­tion will breed a cul­ture of un­fet­tered syco­phancy and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion which would suit po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. The real chal­lenge of po­lice re­form lies in proper train­ing of the con­stab­u­lary and in­cul­cat­ing in them a sense of con­fi­dence and dis­ci­pline to make them aware that they are be­holden to the law of the land and none else. That seems a far cry.

PHO­TOS: arun ku­mar

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