Sunday, October 16, 2016

Do Not Sell Your Soul

                                                       DO NOT SELL YOUR SOUL

One can understand, though not condone, freelance biographers and journalists indulging in mud slinging and character assassination to make a quick buck but not officers holding very senior positions in intelligence and investigation agencies. It amounts to ‘selling’ the secrets as the compelling motive is lure of the lucre compounded with self-glorification and instant publicity. Unfortunately more and more of them can be seen succumbing to this temptation.
Those connected with CBI, Intelligence Bureau and RAW have been the worst culprits. Some books that come to mind readily are Inside CBI by its former Director Joginder Singh; Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Joint Director of IB; India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing by Maj Gen V.K. Singh; and the latest scoop Kaoboys of R&AW – Down the memory lane by B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW The authors may claim that they are merely bringing out into the open the anomalies in their respective organisations’s lack of accountability, transparency and effective leadership. What comes out is their lack of objectivity, their own hurt and bruised ego.
Joginder Singh writes that pressure was exerted on him to register a case against Ms Jayalalitha and to block Laloo Prasad Yadav's arrest in the notorious fodder scam case. Among his other ‘disclosures’ Maj Gen V.K.Singh has zeroed in on the well publicised release of Kargil tapes by the NDA govt to the then Pak Premier Nawaz Sharif and has questioned the ethics, wisdom and legality of this action. He attacks RAW with no holds barred.

Maloy Dhar blatantly vents his ire against the then Director IB who is presently the National Security Advisor and the reference is not veiled. Dhar calling his former boss spineless and self-serving is in poor taste and smacks of nursing a personal grudge. He refers to some instances of phone tapping. He writes about much else which is either in bad taste or violation of the Official Secrets Act.

The latest to join the race is B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW, and he surpasses the others. Look at some snippets from his book. That RAW should have been in touch with America's CIA, UK’s MI6 and other foreign agencies is only in the fitness of things and is hardly a startling revelation. If Raw had a mole in the office of Gen Yahiya Khan Pakistan returned the compliment by fomenting trouble (insurgency) in Punjab in collusion with CIA. Raman does drop a bombshell when he blames the domestic arm, the Intelligence Bureau, for ignoring a crucial input from German intelligence which might have prevented Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Such books dish out salacious gossip and earn good money, besides making the authors the darling of the media for a time. These are based on the author’s personal knowledge or ‘classified’ documents access to which is not permitted even under the RTI Act. Most of what has been said thus remains beyond verification but the unsuspecting public laps it all up. The contents have gone unchallenged by the persons directly or indirectly accused in the book and by that amorphous body called government. There can be state secrets and divulging them may jeopardise national security. It is for that reason that the Right to Information Act, 05 has exempted the intelligence services from its purview. At times these also relate to the conduct of prominent public figures and it is questionable whether washing their dirty linen in public is going to help the society. That our intelligence agencies – be it CBI, IB or RAW – are used as a political tool is an open secret but an insider’s account of factionalism within these organisations or the ongoing turf war between our internal and external intelligence agencies is likely to undermine people’s faith in them.

Books such as these raise issues of ethics, conduct rules and law. The sleuth is expected to be anonymous, with lips sealed but eyes and ears open. All of us who have served in such positions are repositories of state secrets. We swore not to let them out, much less sell them. We held that kind of information in trust and to make it public is downright unethical and a breach of trust. It is not understood why the government shies away from invoking the Official Secrets Act and prosecute such offenders. If they have also violated the Conduct Rules, their pension may be forfeited. If necessary, the OS Act and the conduct rules should be amended to make them more comprehensive and stringent. There is a rule prohibiting government servants from accepting private employment within two years of their retirement. Why can’t there be a rule that an employee cannot publish accounts of his service days till, say, ten years of hanging up his boots? Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stipulated that some pages from his book India Wins Freedom could be published not before thirty years after his death. Too much secrecy can be counterproductive and some degree of public accountability can be achieved by having a parliamentary committee oversee the performance of our intelligence agencies, like in US and UK.



(Sudhir Kumar Jha)

(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at sudhirjhapatna@gmail.com)

Monday, November 24, 2014

                                  BANGLADESH POLICE: SOME IMPRESSIONS                                                                  

 An Indian visitor to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, will find the newspaper reports on crime and police fairly familiar.  Like in India, police is media’s pet whipping boy. Policemen, jointly and severally, are lambasted for highhandedness, brutality and corruption. The reputed British journal The Economist (dated June 18-24, 2005) quotes Odhikar, one of the human-rights groups active in Bangladesh, claiming that as many as 168 people have been killed by the security forces in ‘crossfire’, a local substitute for ‘fake encounters’ in the first five months of the current year. In the same vein the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights reports two hundred people being killed by the law enforcement agencies in the first half of the current year, an increase of nearly three times over last year. One message rings loud and clear – the need to sensitise these forces to human rights.
 The bete noire is the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Sounding very much like India’s Rapid Action Force, a wing of the para-military CRPF, RAB was created on 26 March, the Bangladesh Independence Day, last year. It has seven battalions in the field. A Director, who holds the rank of Additional Inspector General of Police, heads it. The real operations are controlled by the Additional Director who is a full Colonel of the army.  RAB has a fair dose of deputationists from the defence forces. Only one-third out of a total force of approximately 5500 is from police, ostensibly to conduct the investigation and to ensure that RAB conforms to law. Each battalion is under a Lt. Colonel of the army. In the beginning full-fledged Superintendents of Police were placed as Second-in-Command. There was furore as the Ss.P. refused to work under the Lt. Colonel on point of parity of rank. Putting Additional Ss.P. as 2-i-C resolved the impasse. Created to combat gunrunning and organised crime that was beyond the capability of the police station, RAB has developed a long arm. So as not to depend entirely on the feed from the local police, it has added an intelligence wing. Some successes have come RAB’s way but, going by media reports, it has earned more opprobrium than encomium. It seems that in its brutal campaign against alleged criminals, it has shown scant regard for human rights. Not only the fourth estate but also leading public men, political parties and human rights groups are intermittently up in arms against the highhanded and at times extra-legal methods employed by RAB in carrying out its given task.
 The police feel particularly helpless in handling incidents of political violence that is endemic in Bangladesh and in which both the contending big parties, the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and the Awami League (AL) are implicated. The Economist further quotes Odhikar reporting 526 political deaths in 2004. The local heavies of the ruling party are generally better placed to sway the law enforcing agencies. Such crimes put the police in an unenviable situation; they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Only a few of these get highlighted in the international press, such as the grenade attack on a rally of the AL last year in which Sheikh Hasina, a former Prime Minister and now Leader of Opposition, was among the lucky survivors. At times like this police do not know how to react though, theoretically, a police force should know that mayhem is mayhem and should deal with the situation in a purely professional manner.
 Many of the allegations against the police may be unfounded or exaggerated but during his stay of seven weeks spread over two visits within a span of three years this author did not come across an official denial or clarification. If the police department has a public relations wing, it needs to be activated. To be fair to the police, they have not delivered too badly given their handicaps. Nor should all the ills of the police be placed at the doors of the present political dispensation.
Bangladesh has stuck to the British-Indian model of policing more closely than perhaps India. The criminal justice system remains virtually unchanged. There has been very little tinkering with the major laws. The sections of the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act remain the same as in the original legislation. Only the prefix ‘Indian’ has been removed and rightly. The Indian Police Act of 1861 is still in operation though it is now known as Bangladesh Police Rules. The departmental hierarchy remains what it was in 1947. Police in India is a state subject.  Not so in Bangladesh which has a common police force for the whole country still headed by an Inspector General. His rank has not been upgraded. He still equates with the Major General and that is a disadvantage in a country where the army predominates. It was after overcoming a stiff resistance from the army that the government allowed him to fly the flag on his car; no other police officer is permitted that.
 The strength of the police force underwent substantial increase in the 1970s. More police stations had to be created to contain the landless sarvaharas (proletariat), a left extremist upsurge in northwest Bangladesh akin to then ongoing Naxalite movement across the border. Ten battalions of armed police were raised to assist the army that was then fighting insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. After the operations were over, these specially equipped and trained police personnel were deployed for conducting elections and on such other jobs that kept them in close contact with political elements. Soon they lost their bite and became like other policemen in the country.
In 1982 General H.M. Ershad converted all subdivisions into districts by one stroke of pen. Consequently, there are today 64 districts in Bangladesh. Perhaps to keep up with the Joneses, Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna were declared metro cities and police commissionerates. The police commissioners are currently all in the rank of DIG and are squarely under the IGP. They are not, however, vested with as much and as wide ranging authority as their Indian counterparts.
 Through successive reforms the British had tried to give the Bengal police a civilian character subject to judicial and magisterial scrutiny. That was undone in East Pakistan/Bangladesh progressively after 1947. The rough and ready methods of the Punjab police introduced by the Pakistan Government after 1947 could not have appealed to the investigators trained under the Bengal system. Before the partition, the Bengal CID was both dreaded and respected for its efficiency and thoroughness. The Detective Department of the Calcutta Police was cited as a role model even for the London Police. The technical infrastructure, such as Finger Print Bureau, Forgery Section and Photo Section et al, was concentrated in Calcutta. Dhaka then had none of these and Bangladesh even today is deficient on this score. It does not have a Forensic Science Wing that is the backbone of scientific investigation. It is understood that this is included among the projects to be funded by the UNDP. Happily, Bangladesh has not lagged far behind India in opening the police ranks to women; one of them is an Additional DIG. The presence of women at various rungs of the police ladder is reassuring.  The image of Ardhanarishwar comes readily to mind; partial feminization or softening of the force tends to make it more sensitive.
Given the dense population of Bangladesh the police-public ratio there does not compare unfavourably with India or other less developed countries. The problem thus may lie not so much in numbers as in the low morale of the force, a result of several factors over a long period of time. Police in Bangladesh have had to function under the shadow of the army. Earlier it was the Pakistan army and it has been the Bangladesh army after 1971. After the ‘liberation’ the Bengali officers of the erstwhile Pakistan Police Service (PPS) filled the senior positions. President Zia later brought in a number of officers who had been sacked from the army. They were put through a condensed course of police training and, given their army seniority, soon occupied the higher ranks of police, causing much heart burning among the PPS officers. The present IGP is the first career policeman recruited to the Bangladesh Civil Service (Police), corresponding to the Indian Police Service, as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in 1973. His two immediate predecessors had army background.
 When the author was in Dhaka in October 2002, the army had been requisitioned to flush out illegal firearms and arrest proclaimed offenders. Army detachments set up roadblocks and conducted searches of targeted houses. The exercise was repeated and for longer durations. This was a job that should have been carried out by the local police with, at best, a backup support from the city or district armed reserve. Today RAB would do it. With the army, RAB and the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in border areas, the counterpart of our BSF, breathing down its neck, the local police feel hamstrung.  No wonder that one can discern a certain amount of cynicism at the cutting edge of police administration. 
The Police Training College at Sardah, some 30 kilometres from the Divisional town of Rajshahi, was set up in sylvan surroundings by the river side, nearly hundred years ago. The British IP officers allotted to Bengal cadre were sent there for initial training. The isolation irked but there were compensations. There was enough game to hunt; there were indigo planters to socialise with during weekends. There was the Officers’ Mess to accommodate a dozen of the probationary Assistant SsP and Deputy SsP. It was rightly known as ‘Philaur of eastern India’. After partition Philaur remained in India and officers of the Pakistan Police Service came all the way to Sardah for their training. The government has since upgraded the college into an Academy and all ranks of Bangladesh police are being trained there. There is overcrowding and the worst sufferers are the ASsP. The first batch (1973) had about 150; the current lot on way to Sardah is over 250 strong. They will have to live in dormitories. This type of community living may sound more egalitarian but may not be conducive to the development of officer-like qualities. Besides, such heavy intake is bound to choke career prospects and cause loss of morale.
The constabulary needs to receive more attention. Their image has to be bolstered. Though the law speaks of a constable as an ‘officer’, he has been equated with unskilled workers and menial staff under the government. He is paid accordingly. To pay such lowly salary to a person who can put people behind the bar, howsoever temporarily, is a sure invitation to corruption. The constabulary has been agitating for a long time and does not take the assurances seriously any more. One can hope this anomaly will be addressed sooner than later.
It is time a high-powered police commission was set up to recommend comprehensive reforms. Policing the police has to be on top of the agenda. A whole new phase has to be introduced into the system, one that will make room for educated, honest and sensitive men and women to join the force.  Whether the government will have the political will to carry out any sweeping changes is any body’s guess. The recommendations of India’s National Police Commission were consigned to the dustbin. Bangladesh may be a different story.


 (Sudhir Kumar Jha)


(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at sudhirkumarjha@hotmail.com)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

FEMINISATION OF INDIAN POLICE

              (Published in the Statesman, Kolkata and Delhi on Sunday 26 October 2014 under the title WOMEN AS COPS)
                                        
The public perception of a burly, mustachioed policeman wielding ‘danda’ with one hand and pocketing bribe with the other is a British legacy. This stereotype has stuck and needs to be corrected. The ideal police should be in the image of Ardhanarishwar, half female and half male, an amalgam of feminine compassion and male machismo. Take it metaphorically and not literally or else the champions of feminism will rise up in arms. Women can take tough decisions - we have the example of Indira Gandhi – and are in no way inferior to men but nature has made them differently so that one complements the other.
Our constitution guarantees gender equality but does not prescribe a quota or a time frame. Our political parties are brazen enough to vociferate a fifty per cent quota for women in police jobs without debating its implications. I am all for women’s empowerment and have for long been an advocate of feminization of the Indian police but not on pro rata basis and not as a knee-jerk response to demands by women lobbies. Any move towards gender equality should be preceded by gender sensitisation and gender mainstreaming. Entry of women into police should begin in small doses and gradually expanded. Increased women participation will soften the otherwise harsh mien that police carries.
Women are joining the police in increasing numbers so their induction is no more a mere cosmetic exercise but if it results in an image makeover for the police so much the better. What must seriously be debated is whether they are to form part of mainstream policing or be earmarked for desk duties or for select jobs relating to women and children?  Woman has been traditionally perceived as the  home maker. Admittedly she can multi-task better than a man. It will still need some juggling to reconcile her role as a cop with that of a wife and mother? Unlike other government jobs one is on call in the police 24x7. Will she have the same uncertain duty hours as her male colleagues? Will she have to be escorted home at the end of the day? Will she be at the risk of transfer anywhere anytime at the whim of the department? Women in the Indian Police Service may serve as role models but their conditions of service are vastly superior to those of the rank and file. Police will continue to be a male bastion and women joining the force must be mentally strong to rub shoulders, not literally, with their male colleagues. It should be made clear to them that once they join the organization they should not expect to be treated with kid gloves. Gender equality does not merely mean pay parity but also work and risk parity.
To ensure what has been said above women must meet the prescribed physical and psychological standard and should not expect deficiencies to be condoned on ‘compassionate ‘ground’. Recruiting widows and daughters of policemen killed on duty is fine but compassion should not extend to taking in over-age or physically unfit candidates. Let them look petite but their bearing must inspire confidence in the public. We come across some smartly turned out young women performing their duties confidently, whether frisking at the airports, directing traffic or performing mela duty. For that they must undergo the same training as men. It is heartening to see women trainees at the National Police Academy not being shown any concession and them taking the rough and tumble of a rigorous training in their stride
The raison d’être of women’s increased induction into police is that they will better serve the needs of their gender who account for nearly half the total population. True, a female victim or complainant will feel more at ease in narrating their woes, rape in particular, to another woman. Incidence of reporting will hopefully increase. Whether that will lead to a more successful follow-up and detection is another matter. There will be some efficient women cops and some not so efficient. In either case they cannot act in isolation and will often need the support from outside.. Women have a keen sixth sense which can make hem good investigating officers but anti-crime operations and law and order situations will at times call for the use of brawn which their male colleagues may provide.
Will police women be utilized in dealing with crimes against women only? If so there may be times when they may find themselves out of work. It is suggested that crimes and situations should be identified and entrusted to women police to handle on need basis. That brings us to the allied issue of having all-women police stations. States have been competing with one another in this regard without an audit of any special benefit that may have accrued from this experiment. Should these police posts be out of bound for male victims and complainants? Rather than having an all-women police station let there be adequate number of police women at every police station to empathise with women who come for help. There are and will be several women capable enough to be posted as officer-in-charge of a police station. Give them a chance but gender segregation may be a regressive step. At any rate an all-female supervisory hierarchy cannot be assured for a long time to come.
Let us hope women joining police will bring down the level of corruption in police? Will police women show more integrity than men when the test comes? Only time can tell but instances have come to light where women have succumbed to the lure of the lucre just as men. It may be only a matter of opportunity and their learning the ropes.
Any intake of women into police will eat into job prospects of men who perceive themselves as bread earners. Some degree of resistance should therefore be expected, Police has traditionally been a male bastion and it will take time for men to get used to the presence of women in their midst as equals and, in some cases, as their superior. Men at times indulge in ribaldry as a release from on-job monotony and tension.  In mixed company they will have to be on guard all the time lest they hurt female sensitivity, however inadvertently, by their gestures and nuances. No more sharing of bawdy jokes. This is only the male perspective. For women the prospect must be more daunting. They will remain vulnerable to sexual harassment during and after working hours..They have to be extra careful in their responses lest an innocuous smile is misconstrued. Gender sensitization is thus going to be the biggest challenge but which will be overcome with the passage of time. As pace of feminization gathers speed, hopefully, women will be integrated into the force and accepted as comrades-in-arm.
No male-female ratio can be fixed for jobs in police. Even in more liberal and open western societies there are today far fewer women in police compared to men. That is because even in the west it is women who are looked upon as home makers and are considered more suitable for fixed-hours jobs which policing is not. An allied problem in the west is their retention which may not be relevant here given India’s low income graph. The world leader is Belgium where one-third of cops are women; Australia and South Africa come a close second and third with nearly thirty percent. India is trailing at a little over five percent. Among the states while Maharashtra has the highest number of women police Tamilnadu has the highest percentage of women cops. Surprisingly, the more literate states of Kerala and Meghalaya have not been able to catch up fast. Considering the background of her social inhibitions India has not done too badly. Feminization of Indian police is a fait accompli. Let entry of women into police continue to be an ongoing process without being in a hurry to jump from five to fifty percent.

Sudhir Kumar Jha
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at sudhirjhapatna@gmail.com)



Friday, November 1, 2013

DO NOT SELL YOUR SOUL

Do Not Sell Your Soul

One can understand, though not condone, freelance biographers and journalists indulging in mud slinging and character assassination to make a quick buck but not officers holding very senior positions in intelligence and investigation agencies.  It amounts to ‘selling’ the secrets as the compelling motive is lure of the lucre compounded with self-glorification and instant publicity. Unfortunately more and more of them can be seen succumbing to this temptation.
 Those connected with CBI, Intelligence Bureau and RAW have been the worst culprits. Some books that come to mind readily are Inside CBI by its former Director Joginder Singh; Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Joint Director of IB; India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing by Maj Gen V.K. Singh; and the latest scoop Kaoboys of R&AW – Down the memory lane by B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW  The authors may claim that they are merely bringing out into the open the anomalies in their respective organisations’s lack of accountability, transparency and effective leadership. What comes out is their lack of objectivity, their own hurt and bruised ego.
Joginder Singh writes that pressure was exerted on him to register a case against Ms Jayalalitha and to block Laloo Prasad Yadav's arrest in the notorious fodder scam case. Among his other ‘disclosures’ Maj Gen V.K.Singh has zeroed in on the well publicised  release of Kargil tapes by the NDA govt to the then Pak Premier Nawaz Sharif  and has questioned the ethics, wisdom and legality of this action. He attacks RAW with no holds barred.


Maloy Dhar blatantly vents his ire against the then Director IB who is presently the National Security Advisor and the reference is not veiled. Dhar calling his former boss spineless and self-serving is in poor taste and smacks of nursing a personal grudge. He refers to some instances of phone tapping. He writes about much else which is either in bad taste or violation of the Official Secrets Act.

The latest to join the race is B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW, and he surpasses the others. Look at some snippets from his book. That RAW should have been in touch with America's CIA, UK’s MI6 and other foreign agencies is only in the fitness of things and is hardly a startling revelation. If Raw had a mole in the office of Gen Yahiya Khan Pakistan returned the compliment by fomenting trouble (insurgency) in Punjab in collusion with CIA. Raman does drop a bombshell when he blames the domestic arm, the Intelligence Bureau, for ignoring a crucial input from German intelligence which might have prevented Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Such books dish out salacious gossip and earn good money, besides making the authors the darling of the media for a time. These are based on the author’s personal knowledge or ‘classified’ documents access to which is not permitted even under the Right To Information Act. Most of what has been said thus remains beyond verification but the unsuspecting public laps it all up. The contents have gone unchallenged by the persons directly or indirectly accused in the book and by that amorphous body called government. There can be state secrets and divulging them may jeopardise national security. It is for that reason that the RTI Act has exempted the intelligence services from its purview. At times these also relate to the conduct of prominent public figures and it is questionable whether washing their dirty linen in public is going to help the society, apart from besmearing their reputation. That our intelligence agencies – be it CBI, IB or RAW – are used as a political tool is an open secret but an insider’s account of factionalism within these organisations or the ongoing  turf war between our internal and external intelligence agencies is likely to undermine people’s faith in them.

Books such as these raise issues of ethics, conduct rules and law. The sleuth is expected to be anonymous, with lips sealed but eyes and ears open. All of us who have served in such positions are repositories of state secrets. We swore not to let them out, much less sell them. We held that kind of information in trust and to make it public is downright unethical and a breach of trust. It is not understood why the government shies away from invoking the Official Secrets Act and prosecute such offenders. If they have also violated the Conduct Rules, their pension may be forfeited. If necessary, the OS Act and the conduct rules should be amended to make them more comprehensive and stringent. There is a rule prohibiting government servants from accepting private employment within two years of their retirement. Why can’t there be a rule that an employee cannot publish accounts of his service days till, say, ten years of hanging up his boots? Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stipulated that some pages from his book India Wins Freedom could be published not before thirty years after his death. Too much secrecy can be counterproductive and some degree of public accountability can be achieved by having a parliamentary committee oversee the performance of our intelligence agencies, like in US and UK.



(Sudhir Kumar Jha)


Friday, October 18, 2013

POLICE REFORMS ARE NO PANACEA POLICE REFORMS ARE NO PANACEA The much hyped 2006 Supreme Court directive on police reforms is yet to take off. While reforms remain the crying need of the hour these cannot take care of all the ills plaguing our society and polity. Police is not an island in itself. Its personnel are drawn from society and bear its stamp. If they are corrupt and amoral they merely reflect the breakdown of moral values in society. True, they swear allegiance to the constitution and to rule of law but so do our legislators, judges and many others. Temptations galore and societal pressure will be more effective than fear of being caught and punished. Will the police reforms change the society and its non-police members? If police was a stooge of the government before independence it has remained so since. The political establishment, irrespective of its hue, has time and again thwarted attempts at police reforms. Besides, the apex court, and the National Police Commission before that, tried to tackle the issue of police reforms in isolation. Police cannot function independently of the criminal justice system which too continues to be colonial and needs an overhaul. Importantly, reforms in police have to go in tandem with electoral and judicial reforms. Until then a ‘reformed police’ will only remain on our wish list. The Supreme Court’s 7-point directive includes, inter alia, the setting up of State Security Commission to insulate police from political influence, selection of state police chiefs for a fixed minimum tenure through a merit based transparent process, take away transfers, promotions and postings from the hands of politicians and entrust it to an independent police establishment board. Law and order being a state subject, the state governments could not have been expected to let go of their prerogative without a fight. After some legal dilly-dallying the states either implemented it in a heavily diluted form or ignored it altogether. In the Bihar Police Act 2007, for example, there is no mention of a State Security Commission. The Act empowers the Chief Minister to make and unmake field officers from DGP down to SHO and falls short of being a progressive legislation aimed at giving the public a professional police independent of political control. If and when a State Security Commission is in position its composition will be heavily weighted in favour of the Chief Minister. The Commission will have the CM as the Chairperson with his DGP as the ex-officio Secretary. His Chief Secretary would be there by his side as one of the members. The judicial members will mostly be indifferent. So, he will have only the Leader of the Opposition to manage with some quid pro quo. In practice the Commission will not be meeting very often and it will be left to the CM as the Chairperson and the DGP as the Secretary to carry on the day to day business of the Commission. Between them they will take all decision s in the name of ‘urgency’ as law and order issues cannot wait. He will have the final say in the selection of the DGP out of the three names suggested by the Union Public Service Commission. As the Minister-in- charge of police he will have the DGP look up to him for assorted favours for himself and the force. From a reading of the S.C. directive the main object of the mandated police reforms seems to be to insulate the police machinery from ‘political interference’ which expression has been left unexplained. It is the legitimate duty of an elected representative or a political activist to bring to the notice of the District SP or the SHO the problems of the public and seek their redress. Surely every such instance cannot be seen as ‘interference’ When an NGO or a Women’s Self Help group approaches the police functionary regarding a case of domestic violence or a case of dowry crime we do not treat that as ‘interference’. In both instances police will be expected to respond suitably as per law. What is one to make of the recent blatantly discriminatory missive from Union Home Minister Shinde to all Chief Ministers to ensure that Muslim youth are not arrested or harassed during communal riots? Whatever may be his intention it will no doubt leave the police leadership in a quandary. Does this not amount to political interference? Would the Home Minister have behaved differently had the State Security Commission been in place? Doubtful. All political parties, at one time or another, try to ‘use’ the police by cajoling it or browbeating it. It may have to deal with arrest or release or to connive at some nefarious activity No wonder they all unite to oppose any move at police reforms. Political pressurization should be accepted as a fact of life; it will not cease police reforms notwithstanding. If the unity among the political parties in their opposition to the Supreme Court judgment about convicted legislators and bringing the parties under the purview of the Right to information Act is any indication things are going to get only worse for the police. Police reforms can have at best peripheral impact in a land where a sizable number of elected representatives, irrespective of their political hue, are convicts or stand trial for heinous crimes. The public expect a police officer to be strong enough to withstand pressure brought upon him by vested interests for extraneous considerations. If he is sure of his ground the worst that can happen to him is an unwanted transfer or in rare cases a temporary suspension as happened recently to the lady IAS officer in UP. Judicial redress is available as a last resort. Sadly, every service has black sheep. My experience of many decades in the police service has been that we often invite political interference by appearing too willing to oblige. Most politicians do not mind if they are talked to nicely and explained how their request is unreasonable and cannot be entertained. If the officer has the reputation of being fair and honest the politician in question goes back satisfied that if his demand can’t be met then his opponent won’t be able to score either. In spite of police reforms and a State Security Commission, when in place, the officer will have to take the final call and use his tact and patience. Occasionally cases of police-politician and police-criminal nexus are reported in the media though they are far fewer than the instances of politician -criminal and politician-bureaucrat nexus. Police must maintain a distance from mafia elements, criminal or political; any incipient bonhomie should be viewed with suspicion and nipped in the bud. There is nothing in the proposed reforms which can curb this nexus. The judiciary, the RTI, the Human Rights Commission and the departmental channels are all there to deal with the transgressions of the police. It has to be the departmental hierarchy, the media and, above all, public opinion which have to act as watch dogs and keep the police from straying. The contemplated Police Complaint Authority will only make the system more cumbersome. An opinion has been expressed that had the police reforms been in place the recent communal riots in Muzaffarnagar could have been prevented or at least contained. That is taking a simplistic view of the problem. Communal divide which had been an accepted social reality earlier has lately been exploited for vote garnering by all political parties. That being so it does not absolve the police from its constitutional and legal responsibility to prevent loss of life and property through the enforcement of laws of which we have aplenty. No law ordains the police to wait for a nod from its political masters. Police ‘failed’ to act in Muzaffarnagar not for want of reforms but out of sheer cowardice and lack of effective police leadership. The reforms, as and when they come, will no doubt give the police a greater functional autonomy and transparency but it will be naïve to expect that they will unshackle it from the control of the government, read the ruling political dispensation. Police reforms can at best give limited returns if targeted in isolation. (Sudhir Kumar Jha) The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar.

   (Published in the Statesman Kolkata and Delhi as The Reformed Police on 24 November 20013        
                                           
The much hyped 2006 Supreme Court directive on police reforms is yet to take off.  While reforms remain the crying need of the hour these cannot take care of all the ills plaguing our society and polity. Police is not an island in itself. Its personnel are drawn from society and bear its stamp. If they are corrupt and amoral they merely reflect the breakdown of moral values in society. True, they swear allegiance to the constitution and to rule of law but so do our legislators, judges and many others. Temptations galore and societal pressure will be more effective than fear of being caught and punished. Will the police reforms change the society and its non-police members?
 If police was a stooge of the government before independence it has remained so since. The political establishment, irrespective of its hue, has time and again thwarted attempts at police reforms. Besides, the apex court, and the National Police Commission before that, tried to tackle the issue of police reforms in isolation. Police cannot function independently of the criminal justice system which too continues to be colonial and needs an overhaul. Importantly, reforms in police have to go in tandem with electoral and judicial reforms. Until then a ‘reformed police’ will only remain on our wish list.
The Supreme Court’s 7-point directive includes, inter alia, the setting up of State Security Commission to insulate police from political influence, selection of state police chiefs for a fixed minimum tenure through a merit based transparent process, take away transfers, promotions and postings from the hands of politicians and entrust it to an independent police establishment board.  Law and order being a state subject, the state governments could not have been expected to let go of their prerogative without a fight. After some legal dilly-dallying the states either implemented it in a heavily diluted form or ignored it altogether. In the Bihar Police Act 2007, for example, there is no mention of a State Security Commission. The Act empowers the Chief Minister to make and unmake field officers from DGP down to SHO and falls short of being a progressive legislation aimed at giving the public a professional police independent of political control.
If and when a State Security Commission is in position its composition will be heavily weighted in favour of the Chief Minister.  The Commission will have the CM as the Chairperson with his DGP as the ex-officio Secretary. His Chief Secretary would be there by his side as one of the members. The judicial members will mostly be indifferent. So, he will have only the Leader of the Opposition to manage with some quid pro quo. In practice the Commission will not be meeting very often and it will be left to the CM as the Chairperson and the DGP as the Secretary to carry on the day to day business of the Commission. Between them they will take all decision s in the name of ‘urgency’ as law and order issues cannot wait.  He will have the final say in the selection of the DGP out of the three names suggested by the Union Public Service Commission. As the Minister-in- charge of police he will have the DGP look up to him for assorted favours for himself and the force.
From a reading of the S.C. directive the main object of the mandated police reforms seems to be to insulate the police machinery from ‘political interference’ which expression has been left unexplained. It is the legitimate duty of an elected representative or a political activist to bring to the notice of the District SP or the SHO the problems of the public and seek their redress. Surely every such instance cannot be seen as ‘interference’ When an NGO or a Women’s Self Help group approaches the police functionary regarding a case of domestic violence or a case of dowry crime we do not treat that  as ‘interference’. In both instances police will be expected to respond suitably as per law. What is one to make of the recent blatantly discriminatory missive from Union Home Minister Shinde to all Chief Ministers to ensure that Muslim youth are not arrested or harassed during communal riots? Whatever may be his intention it will no doubt leave the police leadership in a quandary. Does this not amount to political interference? Would the Home Minister have behaved differently had the State Security Commission been in place? Doubtful.
 All political parties, at one time or another, try to ‘use’ the police by cajoling it or browbeating it. It may have to deal with arrest or release or to connive at some nefarious activity   No wonder they all unite to oppose any move at police reforms. Political pressurization should be accepted as a fact of life; it will not cease police reforms notwithstanding. If the unity among the political parties in their opposition to the Supreme Court judgment about convicted legislators and bringing the parties under the purview of the  Right  to information Act is any indication things are going to get only worse for the police. Police reforms can have at best peripheral impact in a land where a sizable number of elected representatives, irrespective of their political hue, are convicts or stand trial for heinous crimes.
 The public expect a police officer to be strong enough to withstand pressure brought upon him by vested interests for extraneous considerations. If he is sure of his ground the worst that can happen to him is an unwanted transfer or in rare cases a temporary suspension as happened recently to the lady IAS officer in UP.  Judicial redress is available as a last resort. Sadly, every service has black sheep.  My experience of many decades in the police service has been that we often invite political interference by appearing too willing to oblige. Most politicians do not mind if they are talked to nicely and explained how their request is unreasonable and cannot be entertained. If the officer has the reputation of being fair and honest the politician in question goes back satisfied that if his demand can’t be met then his opponent   won’t be able to score either. In spite of police reforms and a State Security Commission, when in place, the officer will have to take the final call and use his tact and patience.
  Occasionally cases of police-politician and police-criminal nexus are reported in the media though they are far fewer than the instances of politician -criminal and politician-bureaucrat nexus. Police must maintain a distance from mafia elements, criminal or political; any incipient bonhomie should be viewed with suspicion and nipped in the bud. There is nothing in the proposed reforms which can curb this nexus. The judiciary, the RTI, the Human Rights Commission and the departmental channels are all there to deal with the transgressions of the police. It has to be the departmental hierarchy, the media and, above all, public opinion which have to act as watch dogs and keep the police from straying. The contemplated Police Complaint Authority will only make the system more cumbersome.
An opinion has been expressed that had the police reforms been in place the recent communal riots in Muzaffarnagar could have been prevented or at least contained. That is taking a simplistic view of the problem. Communal divide which had been an accepted social reality earlier has lately been exploited for vote garnering by all political parties. That being so it does not absolve the police from its constitutional and legal responsibility to prevent loss of life and property through the enforcement of laws of which we have aplenty. No law ordains the police to wait for a nod from its political masters. Police ‘failed’ to act in Muzaffarnagar not for want of reforms but out of sheer cowardice and lack of effective police leadership. The reforms, as and when they come, will no doubt give the police a greater functional autonomy and transparency but it will be naïve to expect that they will unshackle it from the control of the government, read the ruling political dispensation. Police reforms can at best give limited returns if targeted in isolation.

(Sudhir Kumar Jha)
The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar.





                          

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WAKE UP CALL FOR BRITISH POLICE

(Published in the Statesman on 19 October 2011 and reproduced in Asia News Network and leading Sri Lankan daily The Island on October 21 under the title Bumbling Bobby)

The Tottenham riots (early August) took the British police by surprise. They fumbled initially for apparent lack of contingency plans. They lost more face when the trouble engulfed not only the city of London but much of the British urban landscape (surprising why these. did not spread to Scotland, Wales and North Ireland) exposing lack of coordination among the different city police forces. The London Bobby has long been viewed as a role model for police forces the world over and the Scotland Yard as icon among the detective agencies. Post-riots tongues started wagging that foreign police agencies might think twice before turning to London for advice on public order. There was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Prime Minister David Cameron might be calling in experts from New York and Los Angeles police on tackling gangs.
Whatever might have been felt and said in the heat of the moment one should not be too harsh in judging the police. The Metropolitan Police had been headless for some time denying the police the benefit of a centralised command. Not having been exposed to a serious riot since the Broadwater Farm riots 26 years ago they seem to have forgotten their riot drill. They were grossly under equipped and under strength They rose to the occasion like one man once the reinforcements came with sufficient riot gear. The London cops, with their strength gone up from 6000 to 16000, effected 1700 arrests; of the 700 charged two-thirds were remanded to custody. Within hours they were tried and those found guilty were sentenced. (Contrast this with India where there is virtually no conviction following a major riot.) Going by a media poll, despite the initial setback the public (at least the majority of the whites) continue to view their police as professionally competent, fair and impartial. In their view the riots were the outcome of the skewed policies of the government over a period of time.
Britain has been a divided society for the last few decades and the hiatus is only growing. The country has had a problem with its youth, a generation that is functionally illiterate, unemployable, demotivated and criminalised from early childhood, stuck in a vicious cycle of generational poverty. They have no jobs, no prospects, and no future except living on dole in dwellings built out of public money. Hate and anger had been building up over a period of time. The super rich bankers in the Square Mile and the rioters next door in Hackney may be next door neighbours but there is little in common between them besides their fondness for the same gizmos. Walking down the trashed streets one found the items looted were electronics, designer clothes, phones, perfumes, cosmetics and jewellery. It is therefore being said that the riots were a consumerist uprising of the have-nots against the haves.
The native white population has reason to feel threatened by the size and relative prosperity of the non-white immigrant communities. Police will have to remain on guard against the rise of right (white) extremism of the kind that was responsible for the Norway carnage last month. According to his own admission the suspect in the Norwegian attacks, Anders Behring Breivik was only trying to draw attention to the imminent danger of ‘black’ immigrants engulfing the whites if the tide was not arrested.
Leave aside the government police too failed to read the writing on the wall. When the society was static the beat constable knew his charge by name and face. He bore on his person nothing more than a truncheon, more as a symbol of authority than as a weapon of assault. If police was unarmed, so was the criminal and so the cycle went. Law and order problems were few and far between. Lately
police have largely abandoned visits to racially sensitive areas. Any law enforcement in these areas is treated with a simmering resentment which quickly erupts into violence. The easy option for the police has been to designate them as "no-go areas", effectively abandoning the silent majority to a life of misery under the threat of violence and crime. Cuts to policing are evident in the mere fact that visible, proactive patrols don't exist any more.
It is time for police to introspect and to answer a few questions. Was there enough provocation to open fire at Tottenham? It looks like not having had to handle anything so serious for a long time police had become complacent. Fire power was used where other methods such as parleying, baton charge, water cannon and tear smoke might have done the job. Police have to answer the charge of intelligence failure and not having a contingency plan ready. Why did they not activate their ‘sleeper cells’? The deteriorating socio-economic scenario and the near total alienation of the youth were bound to result in an outburst sooner than later. Police failed to feel their pulse. Once the trouble started there was obvious lack of coordination between the police forces of different cities. Why could the conflagration not be prevented from spreading to other cities? If the looters could coordinate their actions through Facebook, Tweeter and other social network sites the police could also have responded in kind and intercepted or jammed them? Perhaps they could not under the law. After all, United Kingdom prides herself on being a free, liberal society.
What complicated matter for police was that the victim in Tottenham was an Asian immigrant. Police, nearly all white, have not been able to shake off allegations of racial prejudice. Considering the large immigrant segment of British population a fresh dose of sensitization is called for. The United States is trying to deal with this problem by inducting a sizeable number of Afro-Americans in their police force.
Having lambasted the autocratic regimes in the Arab world all these years for human rights violation spy glasses are constantly turned on UK for any signs of similar transgression. With the sword of human rights violation hanging over their head British police law enforcement has become lax. In coming years law enforcement without compromising on human rights is going to pose a challenge for them.
The British police are still one of the best in the world. Let them treat the riots as a wake up call, fine tune their strategy and tactics, and take stock of what they have and what they need. Equally or more so, government must take note of the changed environment. With latent hostility at home and international terrorism staring country in the face days of the unarmed beat constable have to end. Police need latest equipment and gadgetry, mobility and, most of all, manifold increase in numbers. Policing, proactive as well as reactive, is going to cost the exchequer a packet, budget cut or no budget cut, and there is no running away from it.

(Dr. Sudhir Kumar Jha)
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar)

POLICE REFORMS:INVOKING ANNA HAZARE

POLICE REFORMS: INVOKING ANNA HAZARE
(Published in the Statesman, Delhi and Kolkata, on 8 October 2011)

An anti-corruption Ombudsman, to be called Lokpal, had long been envisaged as a watch dog against sharks such as some of those who are biding their time in Tihar Jail. For reasons which need no elaboration the law enforcement machinery, be it the central or state agencies, fight shy of trying to net the big fish, unless the higher judiciary intervenes or the political establishment has a score to settle with their adversaries. Successive governments have been dragging their feet for nearly fifty years creating an impression that there is no political will to stop the loot of public money. It was this pent up frustration that Anna Hazare exploited to build up a mass movement. We bow to Anna’s missionary zeal. His war on corruption should embrace three main areas, namely, electoral reforms, judicial reforms and police reforms. He has the first two in his sights but not the third which impacts people’s lives more directly and at the cutting edge
We invoke Anna to include police reforms in his action plan. Without these he cannot take his fight against corruption to its logical conclusion. Recurring debates about the police-politician and police-criminal nexus notwithstanding the unholy alliance thrives more than ever. If police-politician nexus is the collusive face of corruption, it is of the coercive type at the grass roots level which the aam aadmi has to suffer in silence. It will be in fitness of things for Anna to include in his movement the replacement of the anachronistic, colonial Police Act by a modern law in keeping with people’s aspirations in a democratic 21st century India.
Freeing the police services from political control should top the reform agenda. Anna’s job is not going to be easy. If police was a stooge of the government before independence it has remained so since. The political establishment, irrespective of its hue, has time and again thwarted attempts at police reforms. The Santhanam Committee set up by the Government of India in 1962 came out with several suggestions pertaining to administrative vigilance but skirted the issue of police reforms. The first bold initiative was taken two decades after independence by a non-Congress government. The National Police Commission (1977-79) made sweeping recommendations to make the police a professionally competent, people-friendly force free from political interference. There was high expectation that Charan Singh might see the reforms through but that was not to be. That successor political dispensation found the report too strong to stomach and just sat over it till it died a natural death.
In wake of the first phase of economic liberalization, more as a knee-jerk reaction, the N.N. Vohra Committee was set up to explore the dimensions of police-politician-criminal nexus. In its hard-hitting report the committee exposed the ugly face of collusive corruption and gave specific names which were never made public. The quid pro quo between the senior police officers on important posts and politicians who posted them there benefited both sides but drained the pubic exchequer. Expectedly there was no follow-up action. Once again the ‘common man’ felt let down. Public cynicism was building up. How we missed you Anna?
It was not the government but the higher judiciary which took note of the public mood. Lately the Supreme Court had been critical of the government’s reluctance in replacing/revising the outmoded Police Act of 1861. To placate the Supreme Court the central government set up the Soli Sorabjee Committee to draft a model police bill to replace the existing Act. The Committee submitted a comprehensive draft for a new Police Act. It aimed to define the new responsibilities of the police force and incorporated several measures to improve its professional efficiency while reducing political interference in its working. Nothing was done. Anna, if only you were there to twist the government’s tail!
The government would have dragged its feet had the Supreme Court not dropped the bombshell by passing a historical judgment on September 22, 2006 on a PIL filed by retired IPS officer Prakash Singh to reform the existing criminal justice system with a view to establish better rule of law in the country. The apex court invoked the recommendations of the National Police Commission and the Sorabjee panel and ordered some revolutionary changes in the system with a view to making the Indian Police more accountable and free from any kind of political interference. The 7-point directive includes, inter alia, the setting up of State Security Commissions to insulate police from political influence, selection of state police chiefs for a fixed minimum tenure through a merit based transparent process, take away transfers, promotions and postings from the hands of politicians and entrust it to an independent police establishment board. Not leaving the central and the state governments any scope for prevarication the court ordered them to implement the changes within December, 06 and to send compliance report by January, 07. Had the directive been implemented in letter and spirit, aided by the Right to Information Act, we would have today an efficient, transparent and accountable police force free from political interference. Police performance during the elections, when they function under the control of the Election Commission, has shown that this can be done.
The state governments could not have been expected to let go of their prerogative without a fight. Law and order being a state subject resistance was not unexpected. They expressed their ‘reservations’, states were not ‘objecting’ at this stage for fear of the wrath of the apex court, on the plea of law and order being a state subject. After some legal dilly-dallying the states either implemented it in a heavily diluted form or ignored it altogether. Bihar, for example, brought on its statutes the Bihar Police Act 2007 where in the state government, read the Chief Minister, retained the power to promote, post and transfer at will field officers from DGP down to SHO, magisterial control has been tightened and some retrograde provisions continued with the result that it falls short of being a progressive legislation aimed at giving the public a professional police independent of political control. The Union government too failed to carry out their part of the bargain relating to the central police organizations. Even the contempt notice issued by the Supreme Court went unheeded.
Now is the time to make the push into a shove. We need you, Anna. Strike the iron while it is hot. With the central government on the back foot and states scared of going against the public mood the Supreme Court ought to be moved to follow up on their contempt notice and force the parties to comply. You must win this battle before you can win your war on corruption. Allow police reform to ride piggy-back on your Jan Lokpal Andolan.

Dr. Sudhir Kumar Jha
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar.)