How not to secure India

Joginder Singh ji,
Former Director- CBI

Utter banality is palmed off as profound wisdom at conferences on national security. This reflects the attitude of the Union and State Governments towards policing India.

All Ministries of the Union Government routinely convene Chief Ministers’ conferences which usually prove to be inconsequential as far as sum and substance are concerned. The Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security held in New Delhi on February 1 was no different from similar gatherings and jamborees.

In his address at the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh banally noted, “I am happy to note that the National Investigative Agency, that was raised after the 26/11 terror attack, has gained much ground in unearthing the fake Indian currency notes networks operating from across our borders and in unravelling the activities of new terror groups… I compliment the Union Home Minister and his team for their proactive role in matters of internal security.” He then went on to express his satisfaction over the fact that 2010 was relatively peaceful and saw few terror attacks and communal violence.

It is not that India has been free from terrorism in 2010. Knowing that the Government of India is soft on terror, the perpetrators of violence are constantly on the lookout for targets. If terrorists carried out an attack outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi, detonated a bomb in Varanasi and triggered a deadly explosion in Pune, the Maoists were not far behind.

Subsequently, the Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the explosion at Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi. This was the second terror attack on the city, which was rocked by serial blasts in 2006 that left 28 people dead.

In strange turnaround, while addressing a conference of Chief Secretaries on February 3, Mr Singh sang a different tune and admitted that the internal security situation “has been tense in some parts of our country”. He said, “There has been unacceptably high level of violence in areas affected by Left-wing extremism and in the Kashmir focussed attention on these issues and a commitment to improving the professionalism and the quality of our police forces… The police have to be equipped to have the morale and the capacity to deal with the
problems of internal security.”

Expressing serious concern over “the lack of ethical conduct and probity in our public life”, Mr Singh added that it strikes at the roots of good governance, dents the country’s international image and “demeans us before our own people… It is an impediment to faster growth. It dilutes, if not negates, our efforts at social inclusion … This is a challenge which has to be faced frontally, boldly and quickly”.

A few months before this meeting, Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram had admitted at the 40th All-India Police Science Congress
in Raipur that “Policing a country of over 1.1 billion people is not an easy task. Policing a country in a troubled neighbourhood makes the task more difficult. And policing a country with insufficient police stations and inadequate and an ill-equipped police force makes the task almost formidable.”

According to official figures, the total number of sanctioned posts as on March 31, 2010, across all ranks in the police force, was 21 lakh. Of these, about 3,35,000 posts were vacant. Thus, the police-population ratio in our country is much lower than the international norm.

The States with low police-people ration are also those which are affected by Maoist insurgency. To address the problem, according to Mr Chidambaram, “the first order of business is to enhance the capacity of training institutes in the States to at least double the present capacity and to recruit at least double the number of policemen and women every year”.

He conceded that most States barely have sufficient capacity to impart even basic training to new recruits. The Constitution of India lists law and order as a State subject. Therefore, the bulk of the policing job is the responsibility of State Governments.

What is most important to note is that the Central Bureau of Investigation cannot operate in a State without the consent of the respective Government. Any State Government can withdraw its consent at any time and thus close any case being investigated by the Central agency. This has happened more than once in our country.

The CBI’s jurisdiction is only limited to Union Government employees who draw their salaries from Central funds. The CBI can only conduct an inquiry when a State Government grants permission for an investigation into corruption or other acts of impropriety, on a case to case basis.

Though policing touches the lives of all citizens, no State Government is willing to bring about the much-needed police reforms recommended by the Supreme Court on September 22, 2006.

Justice KT Thomas, chairperson of the Supreme Court-appointed Police Reforms Monitoring Committee, set up in July 2008, has said that not a single State or Union Territory Government wants to lose its power of appointment or transfer of police officers. According to him, he met State politicians who saw no reason in winning elections if they were not allowed to hold on to their power to choose their own police officers.

His committee, without exception, met with “laughing refusals” from State Home Ministers when asked if they would make room for the setting up of a Police Establishment Board. “The reason is very obvious. They laugh and ask me: ‘Why did I win the election if I do not have even the power to decide my own police officers”, he said.

The way things are turning out in different branches of Government presents a dismal picture. One of the four pillars of a democracy is a prompt and effective justice system, which includes the police and the judiciary.

Despite having a mammoth number of commissions, committees and regulatory bodies, the country is going downhill. It is a matter of shame that it has been classified as the 87th most corrupt country in the world with an integrity score of 33 out of 100. The country has been looted by scamsters and the money, running into lakhs of crores, has been salted abroad in secret bank accounts.

The Government should remember that this is not the time to be afraid or timid because the challenges India faces are formidable. It can take up one problem at a time — like illiteracy, corruption, health or education — and focus on it for six months. In five years, it would accomplish what has not been done for the last six decades. But this calls for both courage and commitment, which our Government lacks in ample measure.

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