I still remember the good old days when the mere presence of a constable in the vicinity would keep the antisocial elements on their toes. The sound of police boots on the ground and the tapping of the lathis by the constables keeping watch at night would make us feel safe in our abode. The mere sight of a police officer in khaki would instill confidence, fear and respect in heart of each and every citizen.
Today’s society, however, provides a major contrast to this, where people try to manhandle or run over policemen when they are pulled up for a traffic offence. This brings to mind the terrible state of affairs that we recently saw at Mathura and in Haryana in the past, where policemen were the victims of violence. Precious lives of policemen were lost in the line of duty at the hands of a gang of organized goons. Many a time we see that the army has to step in to protect the police in the face of civilian protests and violence.
This now brings us to our current situation, where policemen are speaking up against the atrocities and organized violence, and threatening to go on strike.
This certainly is not a healthy trend for a country like ours and if we do not act soon it presents a dangerous situation for the democratic civil society.
The million dollar question is why have we reached this abysmal state of affairs and what can be done to get us out of this?.
My thoughts on the reasons for this sad state of affairs of the police force are –
Politicization of the police force is happening such that almost all postings and promotions are based on political patronage, which indebts them to the political masters. This in turn leads to demands that they work for them, with complete loss of freedom to work impartially for the society that they are meant to serve.
Rampant corruption in appointments and postings is a vicious cycle. Since every investment demands a reasonable return, it adds to the cycle of corruption begetting corruption.
It also leads to the loss of authority for the top brass since many of the appointments are obtained by greasing the palms of people higher-up. This gives birth to the reign of political godfathers running the show, rather than the heirarchial system that was meant to do this. This also makes sure that merit takes a back seat and the talented few do not get selected for these these crucial jobs.
Pathetic living and working conditions, meagre salary plus poor equipment and training zaps the motivation and morale of the force making it impossible for them to put in their best; and most of the time pushes them towards corruption.
There is also the continuation of the feudal system, wherein the the constables/orderlies are virtually treated like domestic help with no dignity or respect, which breeds tremendous dissatisfaction and rebellion.
All in all, these factors have sounded the death knell for what used to be the efficient, non corrupt humane police force of our country.
Is there a way out? As a lay man and conscientious citizen of this country, I say yes. And this is how.
- First and foremost we need to implement rapid depoliticalisation of the force by making transfers and appointments merit-based, including them under the purview of a police board and having a fixed tenure for important posts as has been suggested by many of the reform committees.
- Have a transparent merit based selection process to get rid of money power and political patronage in selections will also be conducive for a clean and efficient, non corrupt force
- The benefits and remunerations of those employed in the police-force needs to be worked on. Urgent implementation of decent salaries and better working and living conditions needs to be done. Investments need to be made towards availing modern training equipment to help them enforce the law in difficult situations, so that they never feel at a disadvantage to the criminals who are already a step ahead in training and modernization of their tactics.
- A democratic hierarchy needs to be established in the system to inculcate a sense of dignity and pride among the lower rungs of the force.
God Bless Our Country
Dr. H Sudarshan Ballal, MD, FRCP (London)
Chairman – Manipal Hospitals
Manipal Hospitals, 98, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560017
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not of the hospital.