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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! - June 2015

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A lot of India is living in the 21st century with 19th century policing structures and manuals. The living conditions of many are of course still some centuries behind, but they’re largely out of the policing page. Those that are exposed to the police on a regular basis have to deal with a service that is manned, trained, managed and reports, in a 19th century cultural ethos. Society and the crimes it commits, are now largely 21st century. But the governing ethos of the police is still in its imperial era origins. That has to change for India to modernise as a country and as a lifestyle.

The modernisation of the police is largely a case of modernising the minds firstly. It is not about changing uniforms or weapons or cars. It is really about what the police ought to be in an emerging 21st century society. Much baggage has to be shed, by those who are in police uniforms, as well as those who govern how the service runs. The onus lies on the police hierarchy as much as it does on the politicians who determine how the service is to be managed. The long-term goal has to be the elimination of the dreaded police-politician nexus, where each is cared for by the other, while the public suffers.

The primary focus, therefore, has to be a greater level of confidence between the public and the police, something which is sorely lacking, in every part of the country. For that to happen the starting point must be the complete elimination of colonial style policing, where the ruled and the ruler are divided by deep absence of confidence. For the people to have confidence in the police the relationship between the two has to change from ruler-ruled to that of a protector of the people. It is not a colonial service any longer, but that of a democratic republic. It must behave in that manner and it must also look the part.

The police in India wears military style ranks and star plates, which is completely contrary to the ethos of policing in a democratic society. Such ranks and star plates were part of the course when India was ruled by imperial Britain who created these institutions to govern colonial subjects. That is no more the case. Appearances must change to begin the process of modernising the service according to 21st century democratic Indian requirements.

After this fundamental statement of change is instituted the process of modernising must begin with current man management techniques. The beat constable, the most vital link in the chain between the public and police higher ups, is the most mismanaged Indian public servant. He or she, functions under the greatest stress levels of all government servants. Their hours of duty, as well as areas of responsibility, have no logical charts or structures. Ad hoc is the rule of the day as far as they are concerned. So the frustration they feel against their higher ups is invariably taken out on the hapless public. And thus, frequently the police resort to extortion and sometimes even contract killing to make their day.

Human touch and kindness to the public and an empathy rather than disdain are the order of the day. But for these to become a reality the entire edifice of policing structures has to change, not simply evolve. There are plenty of studies, including the dusty National Police Commission report, that delve on the matter. They are certainly not the last word but merely a beginning point to take this process to its logical end.

India has one of the lowest policemen to population ratios in the world. Even as the population has increased manifold the intake of policemen has not kept pace. What has grown disproportionately, however, is the increase in the number of higher ranks. When the actual requirement is for more beat constables to the daily duties and interaction with the public. Because of these lacunae the performance and credibility of the police has taken a beating. What needs to be done immediately is to increase the interaction with the public, more akin to citizens police force rather than that of some alien ruler.

The modern digital age is based on an interactive sense of life. And that is also going to be the agenda of the hundred smart cities coming up across India. These smart cities can only be secured and thus allowed to prosper, when those who are the protectors behave as such, interact with the people and are caring toward them. That would be the greatest modernisation of the Indian policing system. Rest will follow without a worry.

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