Has IPS lost its fraternal feeling?

Has IPS lost its fraternal feeling?

The recent happenings in the country involving senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officers has made the society wonder whether the’ steel-frame’ which used to bind them together has corroded.

Never did the nation see such unseemly fights between senior IPS officers in CBI. Rarely did we see an IPS officer ‘arresting’ a police team which came to interview him. The IPS officers maligning each other in public, and trying to fix each other in criminal cases are becoming too common. This has made the people wonder whether IPS as a service has fallen down from its high pedestal.

It is not as though such incidents did not happen earlier. But they happened away from the public gaze. Accusations against a fellow IPS officer were made mostly in official documents and not before the media.

Decades ago when I joined the IPS, my seniors emphasised that ours is a premier service and that all IPS officers are ‘brothers and sisters’. To inculcate the feeling of fraternity, we were asked to ‘call on’ our superiors in service both officially and socially.

During the initial years of my service, I always dined in the SP’s residence and stayed there whenever I was in his headquarters. Whenever any senior IPS officer came to my place of work, he invariably came home to have tea or a meal. This practice, which helped service camaraderie is said to have vanished.

This and many such traditions made us feel that all IPS officers are family. We could go to our seniors any time and pour out our grievances, both official and personal. And they were always there to guide us. When we went out of our state on a tour, both official and personal, IPS officers, whom we had not even met once, went out of the way to make our visit pleasant.

This camaraderie never impinged on our discipline. If we erred, our seniors were the first to point out our mistakes. They never hesitated to ‘tick off’ a recalcitrant junior.

Young IPS officers now complain that their seniors have stopped counselling them. Senior IPS officers rue that the youngsters don’t come to them for guidance and are more prone to seek unofficial avenues to get what they want.

In fact, a politician is supposedly more trusted than one’s own senior officer. We were told that conduct rules forbid contacts with political bosses for any personal gains. Nowadays, without blessings from the political big wigs, an officer would probably ‘mark time’ remaining wherever he is. The Ministry of Home Affair’s circular to IPS officers last week about Conduct Rules demonstrates this.

It was grilled into our minds that irrespective of caste, creed, language, and domicile, all IPS officers were brothers. The service is now divided on the basis of caste, language, ‘insider-outsider’ (insider is the officer who is a native of the State in which posted), ‘honest-dishonest’, ‘close to the minister –not close, ‘direct recruit-promotee’ and what-have-you.

A young officer pointed to me that ‘greed’ is the underlying factor for such a state of affairs. Greed for plum postings has always cracked relationships. Unlike in the other services, there are too few ‘important’ or influential posts at the top and officers are willing do ‘anything’ not only to get these posts, but more significantly remain there.

Whether one likes to admit or not, for many officers self-advancement has become the only goal in their career. Even when they succeed in getting what they want, they are least bothered about the career advancement of their own junior colleagues.

Resentment, indiscipline

Apart from plum postings, deputation for foreign training courses and foreign postings, promotions and in some cases, medals have caused resentment between members of the IPS.

Such resentment has also caused indiscipline in the top ranks of the IPS. We have heard of many cases of an Additional Director General of Police not bothering about the directions given by his/her superior and openly criticising the DGP before his own subordinates.

Such conduct by some senior officers has made them fall in the eyes of their juniors. Since the seniors’ actions do not match their words, their juniors have stopped showing them any respect. Since they are so self-centred, their juniors have easily taken to extra-official avenues to get what they want and landed the service in a poor light.

The situation can probably be improved by implementation of Supreme Court mandated police reforms, and strict enforcement of conduct rules. Postings need to be made on the basis of an officer’s competence rather than his caste or political leanings. 

Improved grievance redressal mechanism, better interaction between officers of all ranks, taking up team building exercises, and more importantly showing zero tolerance to political meddling might help improve matters.

It is sad that the only time IPS as a service comes together is during their cadre reviews and Pay Commission recommendations. The time to take corrective action is now.

(The writer retired from the IPS as Director General of Police)