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