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Pampering VIP’s and neglecting the common man in India

February 20, 2007

I met an old friend of mine over lunch. She lives in the UK and had come to India with a friend from England. He is an Englishman. When I asked him what he thought of India he answered me with a question.
‘Where are your policemen?’ he asked.
I was caught by surprise.
‘I hardly see any on the roads. Are they in plainclothes?’ he continued.
‘Er…no,’ I admitted. ‘We don’t have policemen on the roads. Maybe at important traffic signals. Or maybe if a VIP is coming in. Or if there is a disturbed situation.” I was thinking of how everyone breaks red lights with impunity. Was this what he was referring to?

Not really. He was speaking of policemen in general.
‘No beat constables?’ he asked.
I shook my head. ‘No such system.’
This stranger had made me focus on a lack that was glaring to those who don’t live here. We don’t notice because we are used to it. We know that policemen are not meant for commoners. They are meant for the VIP’s. The newspapers talk about this every now and then. The common man suffers suffers because there is an overall shortage anyway.
Take our nation’s capital, Delhi.
A population of 1.5 crore, but the police force is at a mere 60,000 (2005 figures). Worse news is that there are double the amount of policemen on VIP duty as compared to those on the streets of Delhi regulating traffic! As many as 7,185 policemen were assigned for VIP duty but only 3,547 were on traffic duty.
And with the increase in our population, the crime figures are increasing, and this puts additional pressure on those few policemen who have time to spare. A quote:

“Already over stretched in tackling increasing incidents of crime in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the responsibility of providing security to VIPs is bogging down the Delhi Police in carrying out its routine day to day duties….according to the figures available more and more of its personnel are being diverted for ‘VIP duty’, which now keeps more than one-tenth of the Delhi Police force occupied.”

And its not as if our VIP’s make do with just the police force, as 1,964 men from the central para-military forces like the Central Reserve Police Force ( CRPF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Central Industrial Security Force ( CISF) are also used by these VIP’s. And this is the situation all over the country. In India one thing we don’t have a shortage of and this: VIP’s!
Why this terrible bias in favour of the big bosses?
Call it a colonial hangover.
Our laws were created by the British to “enforce the Colonial diktat and extend its regime in an “inexpensive manner.”
Well, our police still do that. Only now we don’t have foreigners using the police as their serfs. Our politicians have grabbed that privilige. The harsh reality is that the basic philosophy/guideline/laws governing our police force were made by the British more than 140 years ago!
Lack of political will to implement police reforms
In fact just last month Julio Ribiero, ex-police commissioner, wrote a scathing article in the Hindustan Times talking about the lack of will to implement police reforms. He noted that the Dharam Vira-headed National Police Commission had suggested police reforms and these had been backed and reinforced by the eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee and also mandated by the Supreme Court, but so far nothing has happened. The reasons are clear. Ribeiro writes:

Six years ago a committee, chaired by me, and appointed by the Union Home Ministry, had visited all the states and discussed the issue of police reforms with the Chief Ministers. Jyoti Basu was non-committal, although Budhdadeb Bhattacharjee, who was also present in his capacity as West Bengal Home Minister at that time, appeared to understand the necessity of reforms. Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab said that his government would agree to the reforms if other states were also willing. Rabri Devi in Bihar did not voice any opinion but her husband Lalu Prasad Yadav who spoke for her opposed the move. All other CMs, particularly Manohar Joshi in Maharashtra, were vehemently opposed…this showed that those in power were very happy to misuse the police for their own selfish ends by appointing pliable officers who would do their bidding.

Julio Riberio wants the police to be accountable to the law and he wants them to be professional, not politicised.
Our police force is also overworked and underpaid and this needs to be addressed as well. But I don’t see any dramatic changes happening in the near future.
Crime is low in India, thank God for that
I guess we just have to be thankful that as compared to the population, crime figures are low in India as compared to the developed countries. I don’t know why this is, but this is what keeps us relatively safe.

Related Reading: Are we working towards a better justice system in India
How just one man’s will helped enforce the law

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