Saturday, January 5, 2013

                  Rotten police system
Vijay Oberoi

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 public. 

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 former
 Vice- Chief of Army Staff, and former founder Director of the Centre 
Land  Warfare Studies)

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