Funds good, police reform pending

The allocation of Rs 25,000 crore by the central government to states to upgrade their internal security apparatus is a major step towards improving the functioning of the police forces. The outlay is meant for developing infrastructure, buying equipment like weapons and vehicles, expanding wireless and other networking systems and setting up forensic labs. A major share of the allocation is to be utilised in Jammu & Kashmir, the North-Eastern states and states facing Maoist militancy. But all states will benefit in some measure. The Centre will provide 75% of the expenditure on the schemes to be undertaken by the states. This is a reversal of the Centre’s decision in 2015 when it had stopped financing the states and told them to use their own resources to improve police infrastructure. Most states could not find the required funds and the functioning of police forces deteriorated everywhere. The availability of funds should help them now.

The focus on strife-torn states and on building infrastructure and procuring equipment speaks of the government’s keenness to strengthen the forces and build capacities to face challenges in regions where security is most under threat. This is needed but the demands of effective policing go beyond provisions for infrastructure and equipment. Other important issues like shortage of personnel and inadequacy of training and skills have to be addressed if the state of policing is to be improved. The strength is far less than the numbers required and recommended for effective policing. lndia has only 138 policemen per one lakh population while the UN recommendation is for 222 personnel. Since the forces are understaffed, undertrained and overworked, all aspects of policing, such as investigation of crimes and maintenance of peace, are badly affected. Conviction rates are very low for all types of offences. There is much to be done to improve the system.

Experts and commissions have made many recommendations in the past decades. The Supreme Court issued a number of directives in 2006, aimed at insulating the police from political interference and improving its efficiency through reorganisation and systemic changes. The guidelines included separation of investigation and law and order responsibilities, fixed tenures for senior personnel, strict norms for transfers and postings, and mechanisms for dealing with issues of misconduct and abuse of power. State governments have not taken the guidelines seriously and have not implemented them with sincerity. That is because they need a pliant and coercive police machinery which will protect and promote their interests. The real reform is in putting an end to this unhealthy relationship between politics and the police and in making the forces independent and accountable.

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