Friday, August 23, 2013

If I were the Home Minister,,,Part 1

If I were the Home Minister, what would I do about the police?

Being a politician, I would not be so much concerned about what needs to be done as what the public wants to see done, though I would like to know, and would want the public also to know, why the police problem has remained intractable despite all the efforts that have gone into 'police reforms' in the past 66 years.

What the public wants, I know, is that the police should be effective and protect its life, property and dignity against all comers, be they ordinary criminals, mafias, netas or terrorists. At the same time, the public wants the police to be non-corrupt, unbiased, and civil and cured of its penchant for fabricating evidence and staging encounters. When I reflect upon it, I conclude that it is necessary to cleanse the police before raising its effectiveness as otherwise the innocent people who are fixed by the police would find it harder to escape.

I know that there are a few men in public services (including police) who are incorruptible, who will not bend, come what may; there are several who are in the services only for money and power and will not desist from their nefarious activities as long as they remain in service; and the remaining will bend with the breeze: they will refrain from dis-honesty as long as they fear being caught but will make merry when they think they can get away with it. So, in essence, what I need to do is to find a reliable method of identifying the good and the bad so that the good ones can be encouraged, the bad ones  weeded out, and the others learn from it. On further reflection, however, I think that given the present state of police morale, reward/punishment to a small number of good/bad men might not be enough to bring the bulk of the force to the path of rectitude: it would also need good leadership at the cutting edge and a general incentive for all the right-doers.

My first task, then, is to find a reliable method of identifying the good policemen and the bad.  I know that I can identify a few, but their numbers can be counted on the fingers. I can ask my party colleagues, but I have seen them fighting for postings and transfers of public servants and I fear that their views might be coloured by their private and political interests. Sometimes, the media highlights cases wherein the roles of some public servants are shown in good/bad light but the numbers are still very small and quite often the media stories are also based on information from 'sources', which could be questionable. So, I turn to the suggestion made in some quarters that citizens' monitoring committees be formed at the police-station level. It seems to me that if a  body of public-spirited citizens is empowered to monitor police work at the cutting edge, it will certainly throw up identities of good and bad policemen and put a check on police malpractices, to boot. I consult senior police officers and bureaucrats about it but I find they are not very enthusiastic about the idea. Some are of the view that police cannot work out crimes and control criminals by strictly legal methods and therefore such monitoring will lower the detection rates even further. Since the people want an end to police obduracy and brutality in any case, I over-rule this objection. I also point out that if police have genuine difficulties in bringing criminals to book through legal methods, then these difficulties should be known to the public (which such committees could facilitate) so that there will be a better chance of the difficulties being removed.   However, many more officers fear that such committees will inevitably interfere with police work and make it impossible for police to do their job 'without fear or favour'. I think this difficulty can be overcome if we stipulate that a committees will ask questions only as a committee and that no member shall  ask any questions on his own and also make it clear that the committee will have  the power only to ask questions, to expose suspected malfeasance, and not the power to command. I also think that this measure would be in line with the current upsurge for empowering people and will, therefore, prove to be  very popular and so I decide in its favour.

I realize, of course, that the success of this measure will depend on getting the right persons to serve on the committees and on ensuring that every committee's voice is heard and acted upon.. So, I declare that  only permanent residents of the area shall be eligible to serve on these committees and that persons whom the Supreme Court has recently banned from contesting/holding public posts shall be ineligible. To select the members, I lay down that the Sub-Divisional Police Officer shall call all the elected  representatives of the people (from village panchayat member to Lok Sabha member) residing in the PS jurisdiction. to a meeting, explain the role and functions of the committee, the rules of eligibility/dis-qualification and then ask  each village panchayat to elect, then and there, by secret ballot, one person and one alternate to the committee. After that, the SDPO shall check that the elected persons are eligible and  willing to serve on the committee and then announce the committee as constituted. To ensure that the committee's voice is heard and promptly acted upon,I shall lay it down that when a committee is not satisfied with the answers given by the PS, it will report all the facts and its opinion/suspicion to the SP and forward a copy to my office (and to media, if it wants to).To ensure action, I shall also direct that SDPO (or more snior officer,as appropriate) will personally enquire into each such complaint; that he will co-opt a public person of repute in the enquiry; and that he will keep my office  informed about the progress of every such enquiry.

To provide leadership at the PS level (and to cope with the extra work-load of enquiries), I will lay down that a SDPO will be incharge of only one PS so that he will have full opportunity to interact with the men and to guide them as well as to supervise them closely and eliminate chances of fabricating evidence or staging encounters.

The resultant increase in the number of posts of SDPO, which will necessarily improve the promotion prospects of all subordinate ranks,will be, I am sure, a powerful incentive  for all those who wish to work on the right side of law. I would strongly urge the DGP to examine whether more responsibilities cannot be assigned to the constables - who are after all an educated lot -so that they may find their jobs more satisfying.  Further,in consultation with senior police officers, I shall sanction all such welfare schemes as would offset the dis-advantages of police service, such as long and irregular hours of work, inability to devote sufficient time to parenting etc

I expect that all these measures would start producing results within a matter of months and that the prestige and credibility of the police will improve,so that I could turn my attention to making the police much more effective, with full cooperation of the public.


Since the number of village panchayats in the jurisdiction of a PS is rather large, it will not be practicable to form monitoring committees with one representative from each panchayat. So, it is suggested that the assembly of  people's representatives be asked to elect a committee of, say, 7 members, with an alternate for each.

(You may post your comments directly, there is no monitoring).