A Huge Challenge for Today’s India
Today’s episode of Satyamev Jayate has been quite positive and inspiring in its tone and approach. As soon as Aamir declared that the episode was on the police, everybody thought that the focus would be on atrocities committed by police on innocent people. But surprisingly, the show focused on ‘why’ the police in India are the way they are and ‘how’ can things be changed.
It’s a fact that the common man in India fears police. No one wants to go near a policeman or a police station or booth. People just want to keep away. The police are another world- the world of unspeakable brutality, cruelty, indifference, injustice and torture. Every mother tells her child, ‘Keep away from police’. Police in our country is considered to be biggest organized problem for the people. The police work as a hurdle rather than as a felicitator. It’s considered to be bad luck; bad omen to come in contact with police.
This is extremely sad and tragic for a young, democratic, modern country like ours. Sensitive policing is a non-existent concept. This terrible image of police blocks our vision when we think about police. We never try to think ‘why’ the police are the way they are. We are not ready to accept that our police are ill-equipped. They don’t have basic sanitation, sitting, stationary, and fuel or training arrangements. Abhinav Kumar, an IPS officer of 1996 batch, an alumnus of Oxford University said that recruitment, training and working conditions of the police are appalling. Constables are 92% of our police force. Their salaries are very low. Their housing facilities, as another IPS officer, Anuradha Shankar said are straight out of hell. She said that we keep our constable in hell; and remember, angels don’t come from hell; only demons are born there.
The police are expected to run their functioning on their credit. Petrol, telephone, electricity - everything is scarce. They have to manage on their own and they do. And then we say, the police demand money. What else could they do? If a policeman finds a dead body, he does not have the official funds to get it lifted. The quota of petrol is scarce. The police manage (‘jugad’) it on their own. And all of us know how they do it. The police is a 24 hour, seven days a week job. When we celebrate our Eid, Holi, Pongal - the police are on duty. Many cases were reported where a policeman could not go home at the birth of his own child or his own mother’s death. Abhinav said that in old times, kings used to keep hounds. Hounds were kept hungry. The hounds were unleashed on enemies. Our police are the hounds of the people in power.
Prakash Singh, a Padmashri award winner, a very high ranking retired police officer filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India basically to free our police force from political clutches. The SC accepted most of his suggestions. But at the ground level, there’s no real implementation. The politicians feel that if they cannot even use the police, what can they do? Whereas the truth is that the police ought to be accountable to the people; not politicians. The police salute the criminal if he wins an election. The morale of the police force is broken. The system is hollow. Prakash Singh said that once he prepared a list of the most corrupt police and administrative officers and gave it to the government to act against them. Some people sitting in the government felt very happy that they got all the needed, helping hands! Honest police officers are sidelined; they’re given unimportant posts and are even suspended. Constables are made to work as domestic helps in the houses of big officers. Dog caring, clothes-washing, dusting, sweeping the house – these are the types of work our constables sometimes do. Shivaji Mahan, another senior IPS officer said that once in counting, about 5500 constables were not found to be posted anywhere. Perhaps, they were farming for the ‘netaji’. This is how we’re utilizing our public money. Sanjay Pandey, another senior IPS officer told that the money the constable exhorts does not go only to his pocket. There’s a structure, a whole ladder of hierarchy where the bribe money is duly supplied. There’s a parallel system of corruption.
Investigation is another important work of police. In systems of other countries, there’re separate specialized branches of investigation. The investigating part is not employed in day-to-day policing. The investigators seal the crime area, collect evidence and forensic experts try to derive conclusions scientifically. The punishment of a criminal is not based purely on witnesses. But unfortunately in our system, as S. R. Darapuri, Retd IGP, Uttar Pradesh told, our police practice ‘danda’ investigation. They physically torture the suspect to a level where he, whether he’s committed the crime or not, accepts having committed the crime. The case does not stand in a court of law and the culprit goes scot-free. The torture of the police is illegal but it’s widely prevalent. There’ve been custodial deaths as well.
Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist who has treated many policemen says that the police in India don’t enjoy any respect or recognition. They’re not thought of kindly. Our society demonizes the police. Repeated rejection, this inbuilt hatred of the society makes the policeman accept that he’s a demon. The police don’t get to sleep; they’ve no proper living conditions. The orchestra of their body is broken. Slowly they attain a stage where they lose humanity. Many policemen get depressed. An encounter specialist can never sleep peacefully at night. He needs intoxication to sleep. The psychology of an encounter specialist and that of a gangster are quite similar.
Well, the ruling political class will never reform the police willingly. They are enjoying their grip on police. Unless and until people demand change, it won’t come. Bipin Gopal Krishna of Karnataka said that the British brought the current police law in 1861 to crush Indian freedom struggle. The law is on army pattern. The police in India are in theory dealing with the enemy. There’re four entry points into Indian police- constable, sub-inspector, state service and IPS. A constable can never dream of going beyond being Assistant Sub-Inspector in his forty years of service. Hard work and good performance do not pay. There should be one level of entry for every policeman. In Britain, the laws have changed long back. Aamir talked to the Police Chief of Greater Manchester. He had entered the service as a constable. Everyone must have the ground level experience. Officers should not be born. Officer ship should be earned through hard work and honesty. The police act must be changed.
Mr. Jacob of Kerala told about ‘Jan-Maitri’ movement of Kerala police. When friendship between the police and the people is sincerely established, wonders happen. People don’t fear police. The policeman is not hated. There’re cameras in lock-ups. Torture is not allowed. Crimes are reported; justice is sought. The standard of government which weighs the performance of the police by number of crimes reported is bogus indeed. If low reporting is a parameter of good performance, police won’t report crimes; won’t register cases. 30% of our police must be women. When in 1993 there was communal flare up in Maharashtra, Bhivandi was peaceful because in Bhivandi police were working on the model of Suresh Khopade. There were no riots because people trusted police, informed them and co-operated with them.
Julio Ribeiro, the well-known retired police officer of Punjab fame said that police is there for serving the people. We need good leadership to take decision for this. Politicians worry only for their votes. So, the next time the politician comes for vote, a billion voters must demand strong police reforms. As a modern democracy, we need a modern, trained, well-paid, law-abiding and people-friendly police. This is our right.