The Status of Policing in India Report 2019, released recently by the Common Cause and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, has highlighted the inadequacies and the dismal working conditions of the police. The report is based on a survey of about 12,000 police personnel and another 10,595 members of their families from 21 states.
Not that these conditions had not been brought to our notice earlier. The National Police Commission had reported as far back as 1979, on the basis of an analysis conducted by the National Productivity Council, that the working hours of the subordinate police officers range from 10 to 16 hours every day, seven days in a week. The Commission further stated that “long and arduous hours of work without facilities for rest and recreation, continuous employment on jobs under extreme conditions of stress and strain, both mental and physical... have all had their telling effect on the morale of the constabulary throughout the country”. The Commission stressed the need to address the “serious deficiencies in their living and working conditions”.
Public memory is proverbially short and politicians, in any case, like to forget inconvenient recommendations. The value of Status of Policing in India Report 2019 lies in bringing these relevant issues again in the public domain. The report states that police personnel, on an average, work for 14 hours a day which affects their physical and mental health. What makes the situation worse is that there is acute shortage of manpower. The force works only at 77 per cent of its sanctioned strength. This inadequate strength is further handicapped by the fact that it does not get in-service training. During the last five years, only 6.4 per cent of the police could be given such training. Inadequate resources compound the problem. According to the report, 70 police stations across 20 states did not have wireless, 214 police stations had no access to telephone and 24 police stations had neither wireless nor telephone. Transport facilities are woefully inadequate. There are 240 police stations which have no access to vehicles. Forensic technology, according to 42 per cent personnel, is never available at the police station.
The report goes on with its depressing picture of the police. It states that three out of five respondents from the families of the personnel are dissatisfied with the government quarters provided to them. Twelve per cent personnel reported that there is no provision for drinking water in their police stations while 18 per cent said that there were no clean toilets.
Pressure from politicians is the biggest hindrance in crime investigation. One redeeming feature is that subsequent to the Supreme Court judgment of 2006, the percentage of premature transfers (in the ranks of SSPs and DIGs), has come down significantly from 37 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2016.
If India is to emerge as a progressive modern nation, it is absolutely essential that the police infrastructure is improved, that it is given the necessary resources and equipment to be able to discharge its multifarious responsibilities and that an environment is created in which police consider enforcing the Rule of Law to be their paramount duty. The Report rightly says: “India’s future as a democracy and an economic powerhouse cannot be secured by an obsolete criminal justice system”.
Chairman, Indian Police Foundation; ex-DGP, UP & Assam