India has second largest police force after China, but is it any good?

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India has the second largest police force in the
world, after China.
The total strength of the state
police as on January 1, 2015, was 2.26 million,
while that of the Central Armed Police Forces was
1.02 million. It is a formidable force, which, if
properly utilised, and enabled to give its best,
would transform the entire internal security
scenario. Tragically, however, we have an
overstretched, fatigued, ill-trained and demotivated
police force, which is used more by the political
class to further its political agenda than as an
instrument to uphold the rule of law.

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As far back as 1902, a Police Commission
appointed by Lord Curzon recorded that “the police
force throughout the country is in a most
unsatisfactory condition, that abuses are common
everywhere, that this involves great injury to the
people and discredit to the government, and that
radical reforms are urgently necessary”. Time, it
seems, has stood still for the police. The
observations made 114 years ago are as relevant
today-in fact, they apply a fortiori, insofar as the
force has been politicised and there are credible
complaints of a section of the force having a nexus
with criminals.
The National Police Commission, established in
1977, submitted eight reports between 1979 and
1981, covering the entire gamut of police work.
Unfortunately, its recommendations received no
more than cosmetic treatment at the hands of the
government. Subsequently, the Supreme Court
gave a landmark judgement in 2006, directing the
states to set up institutions to insulate the police
from extraneous influences, give it a fair measure
of autonomy in personnel matters and ensure its
accountability. A transparent procedure was
prescribed for the selection of the DGP, giving him
and other officers in the field a fixed tenure and
ordering separation of investigation from law and
order in metros. Seventeen states have since
passed laws, but these violate the letter and spirit
of the court’s directions. Other states passed
executive orders, diluting or modifying the judicial
directions.
The prime minister, while addressing the police
chiefs on November 30, 2014, talked of ‘SMART’
Police-a police force that is strict and sensitive,
modern and mobile, alert and accountable, reliable
and responsive, techno-savvy and trained. The
concept, however, did not take off because the
essential groundwork for transformation had not
been done. And so, ten years after the Supreme
Court judgement, we continue to be saddled with a
colonial police with a feudal mindset.
The political leadership must understand that if
India is to emerge as a progressive, modern
nation, there is no getting away from police
reforms. Such reforms are not for the glory of the
police – they are to improve governance, protect
the human rights of citizens and uphold the rule of
law. More: the reforms are essential to preserve
the democratic structure of the country and sustain
the momentum of economic progress. The
democratic structure cannot survive if the police-
politician nexus-on which the Vohra Committee
published a report in 1993-is not dismantled, and
the police is not rescued from becoming a pawn in
the hands of politicians. The economic progress of
the country will also suffer a serious setback if we
do not have stable law and order. No businessman
would want to invest in an area where returns are
not assured and the safety of workers is not
guaranteed.
Recent events have highlighted the urgent need for
police reforms. In Haryana, the administration
virtually collapsed in the face of the Jat agitation
over reservations this February. The police
deserted their posts, abdicated their duties, and
allowed hooligans to go on a rampage. It is
estimated that public and private property worth Rs
20,000 crore was damaged. In Karnataka this
month, the government was initially soft on the
rioters agitating over the Cauvery water issue and
indulging in acts of hooliganism. Order was
restored after the Supreme Court pulled up the
state government. UP is another state where we
will have to keep our fingers crossed. The 2013
Muzaffarnagar riots could have been contained in
the initial stages if Lucknow had not interfered. The
tragedy in Mathura this June could have been
averted if local authorities were allowed to take
timely action against the land grabbers, who were
patronised by a state-level leader.
The most formidable problems facing the country-
the threat of terrorism, Maoist insurrection, a
separatist movement in J&K, and insurgencies in
the Northeast-need a reorganised, restructured and
revitalised police. When will our leadership wake
up to the urgent need for police reforms? The
country has already paid a heavy price, more than
once, for the failures of law enforcement agencies.
Even the tragedy of 1984 could have been averted
if the police had performed its duty of dispersing
rioting crowds and maintaining law and order. Are
we waiting for another catastrophe to overwhelm
the country?

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