Insights into Editorial: After Pathankot, what?
16 January 2016
The extended time taken by the security forces to neutralize the recent attack on the airbase in Pathankot has led to a clamour for the need to have the ability to respond more swiftly. The whole incident has also raised several questions about how to respond to such attacks. Most people are of the view that the local police should have reacted faster. However, given the present state of policing in India, one can easily conclude that our police forces are not in a position to handle such attacks.
The three greatest problems confronting the country today are:
- The challenge of international terrorism.
- The spread of Maoist influence over vast areas of Central India.
- The cancer of corruption.
If we are to tackle these problems effectively, there is no getting away from having a professional police force, well trained and equipped, highly motivated, and committed to upholding the law of the land and the constitution of the country. However, this would require a total revamp of police forces in the states.
Present state of police forces in the country:
The bulk of the recruits in the police come from the rural areas and from the economically weaker sections of society. Physical tests at the entry levels are deliberately designed in a manner that does not weed out too many hopeful candidates. And also for the same reason, the training curricula, as well, cannot be too stringent.
- Even on the job, a daily grind with 14-hour duty schedules, irregular food timings, consumption of unhealthy street food, has made them less active.
- And the police forces at the state level are primarily required to maintain law and order, manage traffic, and prevent and investigate crime.
- Hence, for the police, who are used to wielding a lathi and investigating crime, it becomes difficult to take up sophisticated arms and combat well-trained terrorists. It is also difficult to arm this civilian force with automatic weapons to respond to a terrorist attack without any prior training.
Such a change in the work profile would require a paradigm change in the way police officials are recruited and trained.
- So the first thing that policymakers have to decide is the kind of police they want, depending on the kind of tasks they expect the police to perform. This should be followed up by necessary improvements in the training facilities available for the police and they should be provided with suitable ammunition.
- Another important requirement for a force to be battleworthy is regular firing practice.
- The police would also have to modernise their work culture and daily processes. Policemen, particularly in metropolitan cities, could be equipped with short batons and communication devices so that they can respond quicker. Specialised units are essential to deal with terror attacks.
- Several strategic assets are spread across the country. Hence, we have to look at the way physical protection measures are taken at strategic installations. For instance, we often find incomplete or poorly built boundary walls and inadequate lighting, with hardly any back-up. This would have financial implications for policymakers as these units would have to be suitably housed, trained, equipped and kept motivated.
- The recommendations of committees, set up to review the security of various assets, and the reports of the Intelligence Bureau should be seriously taken up. While manpower is essential to provide security, investments must also be made in technology to secure assets.
- The political class too is not anywhere near to loosening its control on the police. Steps have to be taken to prepare our policing and investigative agencies for any kind of crimes and attacks.
- There is a need to recruit more officers with specialisation in forensic sciences and also in different fields like cyber crime, financial accounting and auditing and psychology.
- Once officers are recruited they need to go through police regimen, with stress on their field of expertise. In this regard, physical exercise must be made mandatory for overall physical and mental wellbeing.
- Intelligence gathering is an art. Intelligence records need to be digitised and made available to authorised personnel when required. Also, Intelligence analysts need to be trained and engaged.
- There is a need to utilise the services of every officer in the organisation with clear division of work and responsibility. There is also an urgent need to separate law and order from the investigation and detection of crime.
- Finally, concerns about the integrity are some of the most important issues facing the profession of policing. Cases of police misconduct can seriously harm years of work to establish trust and confidence between the police and members of the community they endeavour to serve. We need to have some oversight over the police working, as is in vogue in South Africa, Northern Ireland and much of the UK.
Supreme Court on Police reforms:
The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement in September, 2006, ordered the setting up of three institutions at the state level:
- State security commission with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences.
- Police establishment board to give it functional autonomy.
- Police complaints authority to ensure its accountability.
Other recommendations by the apex court:
- The apex court also ordered that the Director General of Police shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission, and that he shall have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duties in the field would also have a minimum tenure of two years.
- The court also ordered the separation of investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
- The Union government was also asked to set up a National Security Commission for the selection and placement of heads of Central Police Organisations, upgrading the effectiveness of these forces and improving the service conditions of its personnel.
The aforesaid orders were to be implemented by March 31, 2007 and the court also appointed the Thomas Committee to monitor the implementation of its directions in various states. Several States have passed executive orders purportedly in compliance of the Court’s directions, but actually they have diluted or even subverted the directions with a view to continuing the supremacy of the political executive in the enforcement of law and order. Seventeen states have passed Acts, but not in keeping with the letter and spirit of judicial directions.
The police are the first responders in the event of any terrorist attack or Maoist violence, and they are also the backbone of our intelligence, investigation and anti-corruption agencies. Thus, looked at from any angle – the security of the common man, the survival of democracy, maintaining the trajectory of economic progress or dealing with the major threats confronting the country – we have to have a reformed, restructured and revitalised police force. Recent incidents call for a cutting-edge approach to policing. This also necessitates an overhaul of managerial thinking in the police as well as training methods.