Fix up flaws in internal security setup for a safe India

The internal security situation of the country is causing serious concern. The situation in Kashmir Valley is far from encouraging.
A soldier guarding India’s border
A soldier guarding India’s border

The internal security situation of the country is causing serious concern. The situation in Kashmir Valley is far from encouraging. Pakistan continues to violate cease-fire with impunity and send terrorists across the borders. What is particularly worrying is that these small groups of desperados are able to attack regular establishments of the Indian Army.

The continuing confrontation between the students and the security forces shows the hiatus between the youth and the establishment. In the Northeast, the framework agreement with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah group) seems to have almost broken down. There are even indications that the rebel Nagas are insisting for a separate flag and a separate Constitution. In central India, the Maoist insurgency retains the capacity to launch spectacular strikes on the security forces. 

How is it that the overall situation is not showing signs of improvement even though we have a strong Prime Minister and a capable National Security Advisor?

There are actually some fundamental flaws in our approach to tackling the diverse internal security problems confronting the country. Three of these deserve special mention. Firstly, we have not cared to define our national security doctrine. There is too much of ad hocism in tackling the problems.

Every political party has a different perception of the problems and accordingly a different policy to deal with them. There is no long-term policy. The US and UK have well-defined national security doctrines, signed by their President/Prime Minister. Why cannot we have a similar doctrine for the country? Policies to deal with challenges to national security should transcend narrow political considerations. 

At a lower level, we have not cared to define our anti-terror policy. Here also, successive governments have been blowing hot and cold. One government passes a stringent law, while the next one allows it to lapse. There is no clarity about our policy of dealing with the Maoist threat either.

The home minister recently held a meeting of chief ministers of the affected states and came out with his own SAMADHAN—S standing for smart leadership, A for aggressive strategy, M for motivation and training, A for actionable intelligence, D for dashboard-based key performance indicators and key result areas, H for harnessing technology, A for action plan for each theatre, and N for no access to financing. Summarising comprehensive policy in an acronym may sound attractive, but it does not cover the entire spectrum of the problem and its various dimensions.  

Secondly, neither the central nor the state governments have paid serious attention to building up the capacities of the police forces which are the first responders to any challenge, whether from the Kashmir separatists, the Northeast insurgents or the Maoist guerrillas. The state police forces are in a shambles. Senior officers are posted and transferred at the whims of local politicians.

There is too much of interference in the investigation of cases. The police is treated not so much as an instrument to enforce the rule of law as to promote the political agenda of the party in power. The Supreme Court’s directions for police reforms of 2006 have been complied with on paper only.

At the ground level, there is very little change in the functioning of police. At the central level, the Government of India has shown scant respect for the apex court’s directions. The Model Police Act, drafted by Soli Sorabjee, has not been legislated for Delhi even. The Supreme Court is also now unfortunately playing it cool. 

Thirdly, the structural flaw in the seventh schedule of the Constitution, which places police and public order in the state list, is yet to be rectified. The founding fathers of the Constitution could not have visualised that the law and order scenario would change drastically after a few decades and that crimes they could not have imagined would pose the greatest threat to the Indian State. There was no threat of terrorism or organised crime in the 40s.

Both have assumed menacing proportions today. The provincial satraps would no doubt raise a hue and cry over what they would describe as attack on the federal structure. That would be sheer hypocrisy because the states are today incapable of maintaining law and order without substantial help from the Centre. The de facto situation of today should be legitimised by giving it de jure status.

Band aid approach to the problems of national security will not help. Long-term policies and radical restructuring of the law enforcement apparatus is called

Prakash Singh
Formerly Director General of 
Border Security Force, and 
DGP Assam, and Uttar Pradesh

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