New Delhi, Dec 2 : The events in Mumbai have shown us how the police forces in the metropolis have been ineffective as the first line of defence against terrorists. The reason is that over the years the police has unfortunately lost its moorings and credibility.
It has been the crying need of this country for over two decades now, if not more, that the police forces should be empowered to do their job professionally without interference from bureaucrats and political masters.
Politicians to serve their own ends have used the police forces in almost all States of India, and as a result the people of India do not trust the service.
The first duty of the state towards its citizens is to ensure law and order and provide security to the people. Under the Indian Constitution, the responsibility of maintaining law and order lies with the State Governments. Unfortunately, the State Governments have failed to ensure the safety of its citizens. Even the Central Government has been as much of a culprit in centrally administered areas.
It was a great pity that the founding fathers gave away the issue of law and order and policing to the states even though they created an all India police cadre in the form of the Indian Police Service (IPS). Politicians in the states have ensured that the police force in their areas become their errand boys. The police dance to the tune of state politicians instead of carrying out their duties as protectors of the men and women in the street.
Over a period of time, the police forces have become corrupt and overbearing. The situation has become so bad that police stations even refuse to register an FIR (First Information Report) for any crime that a citizen may report. You either bribe the policeman to get an FIR registered or move a politician to do so.
The registration of an FIR does not mean that your case would be solved or that you may get justice. It can be to the contrary. Before you realise what has happened, the concerned police station may implicate you in the case. There are many instances when complainants have been implicated as criminals. The net result has been that people do not lodge or avoid lodging any complaints.
The police forces in the states are reluctant or unable to handle criminals or terrorists. Remember the zeal and energy that the Maharashtra Police and its Home Minister (R.R.Patil) showed when they were fighting the poor hapless girls dancing away in bars to earn a living.
The Director General of Mahrashtra Police, Mr. A.N. Roy, could be seen on television every night as though he was carrying out a huge operation to rid Mahrashtra of crime. He was only acting as the moral policeman of his boss Home Minister R.R. Patil. Contrast this with the passive role played by the Mumbai Police during the recent terrorist strikes in the city.
Where has all this led the Maharashtra or Mumbai Police? Bombay Police at one time was known to be among the best not just in India but also in the whole of the then British Empire. They carried out their duties fearlessly and Bombay was among the safest cities in the world. Can Mr. R.R. Patil or Mr. Roy claim that today about Mumbai?
The handling of police forces in the centrally administered areas has been no different in recent years. I remember as a child watching every afternoon that on summer days a "bheshti" water carrier would spray water on the main street of old Delhi's Chandni Chowk.
The "beshti" would be followed on horseback by the head of the police station along with two police constables. The immaculately turned out three horsemen would slowly take a walk towards the Fatehpuri mosque, turn around go up to the Red Fort and then back to their police station. This one gesture was enough to let criminals and others know that the police was around to deal with them.
The above scene used to take place day after day. But that was during the British era. The policemen of Delhi wore half pants, had proud headgear and were turned out smartly. The present-day policemen are pot-bellied, wear crumpled trousers, broken shoes, and hardly any one takes notice of their turn out except during the Republic Day Parade.
The policemen have been reduced to the job of 'chowkidars' of third-rate politicians and in many cases criminals-turned-politicians. The policemen were not hired or trained for this job. Till the tragic invasion of Mumbai by terrorists from abroad, I believed that the NSG existed only to protect the politicians of India? What a waste of this elite force. Almost every other politician seems to be surrounded by "black cat commandos" Why? It is time that the people of India demand that the police are allowed to do the job for which it exists. They should be immediately taken off from the job of protecting the politicians other than the President of India, Vice President of India, the Prime Minister and may be a few others holding high office under the Constitution.
Let us get back to the days of the Jawaharlal Nehru's era or the preceding British period.
If others want protection, let them arrange it from private security agencies. It is the business of the state to protect each and every citizen. Why should the politicians be treated as super citizens of India, which they are not.
It is time that the country got back its "beat policemen". These were the men who were the backbone of law and order. They knew the area under their beat; who lived there; who came and went and so on. The people of his beat knew the beat policemen and his was also the friendly face of the police amidst them.
If you honestly want to restore law and order, then you need to restore the police to the status that it had half-a-century ago. At best a lady beat constable should help the lone beat constable.
The police stations all over India need to be refurbished to bring them in line with today's needs. The old system of informers for the police station needs to be enforced strictly to ensure that the money meant for informers is not being pocketed by the in charge of the police station. Perhaps it is time to term the informer as "secret police officer" SPO and pay them on record, though secretively. These were the men-the ordinary cobbler, paan wala, newspaper boy, the 'rehri wala' who would take pains to keep looking out for the odd one and report to the police station.
In the U.K. it is said that almost bulk of the 'black cab' taxi operators in London are police informers on the quiet. If that is true, then what a sea of informants and eyes that police in the UK have to keep a watch on the crime and criminals.
It is imperative that the police in India are restored their honour and pride in the job they are supposed to do. The politicians have done enough damage by treating them as their "personal security officers" PSOs. This needs to come to an end. It is NOT the job of the police to protect an individual or his family,
It is also necessary to restructure the police. We may adopt the British model which it would be easier transition for the police force of India.
That should not be an impossible task. We have seen smartly turned out policemen during the Republic Day Parade march past. The smart contingents are capable of converting themselves into highly motivated professionals.
Properly trained, they would be able to maintain law and order, infiltrate into the ranks of local terror modules and be able to fight effectively any threat to the nation's civil society. 'Chowkidars' of politicians cannot do that job.
Let the police forces do their job professionally, independently and without fear. by Prem Prakash