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Poor police to people ratio forces common man to fend for himself

August 20, 2007

How do we in India manage to survive with just one policemen per thousand people when countries Germany, Hungary, Spain and South Africa have almost 3 policemen per thousand and Thailand has more than 3??

Here are the statistics from nationmaster (this link is now updated, but the figures below have not been. So for the latest figures kindly go to the link. Thanks.):

Hong Kong: 4.79374 per 1,000 people

Malaysia: 3.43936 per 1,000 people

Thailand: 3.35665 per 1,000 people

Germany: 2.91153 per 1,000 people

Hungary: 2.88528 per 1,000 people

Spain: 2.86696 per 1,000 people

South Africa: 2.7668 per 1,000 people

Poland: 2.61367 per 1,000 people

Norway: 2.42412 per 1,000 people

Turkey: 2.38057 per 1,000 people

Australia: 2.09293 per 1,000 people

France: 2.049 per 1,000 people

United Kingdom: 2.04871 per 1,000 people

Switzerland: 1.93617 per 1,000 people

Netherlands: 1.92448 per 1,000 people

Denmark: 1.91716 per 1,000 people

Korea, South: 1.85461 per 1,000 people

Japan: 1.81103 per 1,000 people

Sri Lanka: 1.72484 per 1,000 people

Canada: 1.70767 per 1,000 people

Zimbabwe: 1.68859 per 1,000 people

Finland: 1.56347 per 1,000 people

Zambia: 1.13674 per 1,000 people

INDIA: 0.956207 per 1,000 people

Costa Rica: 0.370767 per 1,000 people

These stats were the latest available (2000). Data on the US was not given and I calculated the ratio to be around 2.8 per 1000 but this is based on 2004 figures…around the year 2000 it was around 2.6 per 1000. In most countries the ratios will increase or decrease slightly – in India it has decreased. This I will come to later.

What is disturbing is that India is second from last on that list. No wonder our policemen work around the clock, and forgo holidays. They are also a highly stressed lot. The public never ceases to demand more and more…

We know why our traffic situation is so chaotic. There simply aren’t enough policemen to control the traffic!

The Times of India quoted some figures, but as their data was only for a handful of countries, I decided to go to another source, in this case, nation master. The TOI has said in yesterday’s newspaper (in a small para adjacent to the small crime chart, no article came with it):

More than four new offenders are added every minute to further burden our (already slow) criminal justice system. Statistics show that the crime rate is on the rise in the megacities, putting under threat our engines of fast economic growth. We have one of the lowest police to population ratio in the world…this ratio is declining over the years and hence the percentage of cases investigated by the police is declining steadily. If we make a hypothetical assumption that all arrested people are offenders, the number of offenders is 4.5 times the total number of police personnel and more than 20 lakh (2 m) are added every year.

And as every Indian knows even these figures are misleading as a substantial number of our policemen are occupied with security duties for VIP’s, police bandobast (arrangements) at public events because of never-ending terrorist threats and also insurgency control in border states. The common man then has no choice but to fend for himself.

The poor policing could perhaps be one explanation for our fairly high violent crime rates, something which I have been wondering about for some time now. Going purely by homicides, India has a fair share of the world’s violent crimes. I have explained here why homicide figures are a good indicator of the level of violent crime prevalent in a particular country.

Crime in cities is rising..why?
What’s disturbing is the tend of rising crime in our cities. I think that this could be due to the rising incomes and lavish lifestyles in the cities with TV advertising and soaps displaying this pretty well. I was trying to find out the reasons for Stranger Crime (while most violent crime is committed by those known to the victim, stranger violence is more common in highly urbanised societies athough it can occur in rural areas too). From my limited knowledge and some reading on the internet I came up with these possible causes:

1) Feeling of anonymity and isolation
2) Lavish lifestyles which the perpretrator sees no hope of ever achieving.
3) Easy availibility of drugs and alcohol (dependency as a motivator for crime).
4) Urban gangs

In Stranger Crimes, money is thought to be the primary motive, although there can be more complex reasons as well.

The future
As India is urbanizing rapidly and the economy is growing fast, it seems logical to assume that city crime will increase…in fact its already happening. The fact that our police to people ratio is getting worse is helping criminals.

What is the government doing to protect us?
Here the harsh reality: The government is broke…what else could be reason for this reluctance to hire more policemen? Well, I do know that we couldn’t be all that broke…because politicians are spending money (and mismanaging the funds) on a lot of other developmental activities, all of which they think are in ‘national interest’. The Police Force for some reason is not getting the priority it deserves.

And in this scenario is it surprising that a plethora of security agencies now dot the Indian security landscape? They are everywhere, in schools, outside buildings, some even patrolling societies and major roads like Marine Drive! In some cases, citizens themselves have formed grouped to patrol their area. Whats worrying is that many of the security agencies are fly by night operators who are often hand in glove with criminals…but thats another story…

An evil outcome of the shortage of policemen is mob violence. Rampaging mobs are becoming common and destruction and violence is seen as a solution for almost every perceived crime. And because of the weak arm of the law, the rioters themselves are not brought to book. We all need to protest mob violence as anyone can fall a victim to it…

I think we should make strong demands to the government about increasing the number of policemen on our streets. The situation is already out of control and the future doesn’t look too good.

Update: These are some actual numbers I got from the TOI, Mumbai, got via the RTI Act. Mumbai’s police force has 41, 914 policemen and women for a population of 1.4 crore. A comparison with other metros:

Mumbai: 42,000 cops for 1.4 crore people
Delhi: 61, 000 cops for 1.6 crore people
Kolkata: 26,000 cops for 45 lakh people
Chennai: 14,000 cops for 86 lakh people
Bangalore: 13,000 cops for 50 lakh people

However one has to keep in mind that a large section of the police are on security duty and this is more so in cities like Delhi which has more VIP’s. However VIP visits are very common in cities like Mumbai as well.

Update 18th May 08. Times of India released some figures which say that India has 143 policemen per lakh of population (Jan 2007 figures) as compared to 200-250 in advanced countries. We are below the UN norm of 222.  Vacant posts in the armed police – 13.8 percent, civil police – 9.8 percent (Bureau of Police Research and Development.)

As on January 1, 2007, the existing police strength in India stood at 14.1 lakh, although the sanctioned strength is 15.7 lakh ( 143 cops per one lakh population)…

The actual strength of civil police at the end of 2006 stood at 10,91,899 against a sanctioned strength of 12,09,904. Maharashtra had the highest number of civil police with 140,089 personnel, followed by UP, which had 119,893 policemen.

As against the nearly 11 lakh civil police, strength of armed police stood at 314,122. UP has the highest contingent of armed police (33,400), followed by Assam (23,708) and Madhya Pradesh (21,607). Only in four northeastern states — Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura — was the strength of armed cops more than that of civil police.

Related Reading: Docs in India often have to face irate mobs
Comparision of violent crime in the world
High percentage of security men on duty in India

(All pics are by me except for the third one, which has been taken from cnn-ibn)

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2007 9:11 am

    This reality underscores the fact that when the Government usurps myriad functions to control and regulate society (examples are welfare schemes for unemployment, employment, licensing, school children’s nutrition, etc.), it neglects its primary function, which is to protect individual citizens from crime and disorder.

  2. B Chopra permalink
    August 20, 2007 10:08 am

    Yes very much true.

    During Dr. Rajkumar’s death incedent in Bangalore, Police had 3 days time to plan.. But they did failed as they were very few in numbers and many were busy as security guard for VIPs visit.. and the result was worst: Out of 235 injured.. 174 were policemen… The police were the worst affected in the incident… and a few senior officials of the rank of Joint Police Commissioners were also injured.

    This was shameful event for both Police n Govt… when Govt. is targeting B’;ore as IT & Hospitality city.

  3. August 20, 2007 12:49 pm

    That we’re still abiding by the archaic 1861 Police Act, and committee after committee’s recommendations regarding Police Reform are neglected by government after government shows how any changes in the police are very difficullt to achieve in India.

    Despite innumerable senior police and ex-police officers, from Ribeiro to Kiran Bedi pleading and exhorting for change, their voices simply find deaf ears. The level of apathy in the public about the police is alarming too. It is amazing how we’re functioning with such a small police to population ratio!

  4. August 20, 2007 4:09 pm

    I too can hardly believe we are managing and not complaining too much Mahendra! We simply shrug it off as a fact of life!
    Bharath, our police are not just overworked, but also pressured by beaurocrats which makes their life miserable. I frankly feel sorry for them.
    Rambodoc…I feel a balance has to be struck. While too much dependence on welfare can demotivate, nothing at all can make people desperate. But I know what you are saying…that there is so much welfare in countries like the UK and the US but crime rates are still high. Well, I feel that it could be higher if there wasn’t miminum welfare.

  5. August 20, 2007 5:17 pm

    if you ask me,we should try and distribute things properly…we need to find a way,come up with something new…

    the idea of police protecting has become cliched…its time to make new changes..

    and its not that there is no money,not many people want to take up the job…

  6. August 20, 2007 5:41 pm

    Even out of these policemen, half are deployed in the security of our good for nothing politicians! An important point is that the confidence level in our police is at an all time low. In an emergency I would personally prefer to ask help from a common man than a policeman.

  7. August 20, 2007 6:25 pm

    Prerna, you have brought out something that needs to be thought about – the lack of faith that the common man has in the police.
    Vishesh, at the lower levels they do want to become policemen. They even pay money as a bribe to do it! But if you are talking of higher levels then you are right. The police force is not a preferred force.

  8. August 20, 2007 6:48 pm

    Not only that there is one more ratio to consider
    Police on Public Duty: Police in VVip Security and Bandobast duty
    if u look at that then it is truely quite shocking

  9. August 20, 2007 6:56 pm

    This stems from the old facts that politicians want to retain power at all costs
    and police wield physical power that no other gangster organsin can wield.
    Police reform in india is nada and tat from no major changes in Police Act of 1861
    National Police Commission reports gather dust

  10. August 20, 2007 8:16 pm

    Prax, you are abs right…I was thinking of finding out that ratio of Police on Public Duty: Police in VVip Security and Bandobast duty for this post but got too lazy. I don’t know if its available from a reliable source but if I find it I will surely add it.

  11. August 20, 2007 10:15 pm


    they pay the money ,so to get it back they take bribe…..then they are taking what is really theirs right??

  12. August 20, 2007 10:41 pm

    Right….! 🙂

  13. August 21, 2007 9:00 pm

    visit for more info on the subject…and write another sequel to this…its an important issue which all cannot address….thanku for doing so…kiran bedi

  14. August 21, 2007 9:34 pm

    Thank you for visiting and the encouraging comment. 🙂
    I am one of your most ardent admirers. Have read your book.
    Will surely write a sequel to this post.

  15. Phantom permalink
    August 22, 2007 2:57 pm

    Hey Nita…good stuff….grt to see role models like Ms bedi come on board and provide their feedback.

  16. February 16, 2008 5:42 pm

    And one thing to add on (along with this pathetically poor ratio) is the great amount of corruption within those little outnumbered police departments. I don’t know much about the rest of India, but I everyday I encounter so many incidents wherein the police just act like gods and there is nobody to police them.

  17. John permalink
    July 7, 2008 10:42 pm

    Are the police force para-military? In the USA the police are becoming an arm of the military. The police are being armed both materially and technologically.
    Surrendering freedom for the sake of security will gain neither!

  18. John permalink
    July 7, 2008 11:08 pm

    To continue…The police in the USA are an unimpeachable source of information.
    Graft..I don’t know.
    They are able to strong arm and abuse suspects without the threat of the law, because they are above the law in their minds and societies also.
    We in the USA hold the police as to our status in society..the richer you are..the more innocent you are..!
    Pity the person who is questionable regarding an incident when an arrest is to be made….lock em up.. and wait for the trial.. and bankrupt them if they are able to “prove their innocence”.
    What a bunch of BS. The USA Constitution states that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
    Why should the defendant forgo their meager monies to make a case of innoncence?. The state should provide the remedy for defense without the option of a hired attorney to defend……I know that the last seems ridiculous….but a choice of innumerable defense attorneys, supplied by the state could make a difference.
    I believe that a defendant is not a criminal until proven so..regardless of status!!
    India is no different than the rest of the “civilized word”.
    The problem is the definition of “civilized!”

    John, thanks for this information about the US. I guess all countries have their problems, but it’s relative. What you say is far worse in other countries. – Nita.

  19. August 23, 2008 5:09 pm

    Indian police are more experienced in exploiting poor people. Didn’t you hear about police collecting money from auto walas and lorry drivers even they are licensed? They also maintain relations with politicians and mafia leaders for money. A police inspector in Assam was arrested by ACB because he earned 450 crores of properties.

  20. DrObserver permalink
    September 26, 2011 9:32 am

    I do not want to detract from the stream of productive conversation, but the conversation is going the wrong way. The sad fact is that the more police you have, like teachers, or “administrators”, the more you will need; because the more there are of any group, the more that group will use their status, and the “podium/microphone” you give them, to promote the idea of greater need for greater good.

    Washington D.C. used to manage very well with 1 cop per 1000 until someone decided that that was below the norm. Teachers used to do quite well 50 years ago with a student/teacher ratio of 25-35. Ditto firemen, emergency crews of almost any nature. As the group gets bigger, and the population that supports them gets more distracted with their own lives, the easier it is to create assumptions about “need”.

    There are seldom any economies of scale, except in companies that are well managed, and assembly lines that rely on mechanical laws of cost and efficiency. In the public sector, efficiency is sold as “putting the public in danger” and every new hire “improves service and safety”. In fact, the statistics do not seem to support those notions, but good luck if you continue down that road.

  21. Anu permalink
    March 12, 2012 5:07 pm

    Hi, May I know the source of this data..the average in india is 222 per Lakh citizens, which will be 2.2 per 1000. I am quoting 2010 data, which isnt very far away from your article in 2007.
    Infact the ratio is 1:334 in Mumbai, i.e. 1 Policeman to 653 people.
    1:474 in Kolkata and
    1:614 in Chennai.
    Clearly 0.95 isnt the national average at all.

    • March 12, 2012 8:25 pm

      The statistics are from Nation Master but unfortunately the link is not working anymore. However by going to the main site I easily found the information, which must have shifted to another page. The statistics have been updated (and I have changed the link), and the 2009 stats are 130 for 100,000. According to UN recommendations, countries should have at least 220 police persons per 100,000 citizens.
      If you take it per 1000 people, the number of policemen in India is just over one for 1000 people. If you are quoting 2010 stats, I do not think that policemen in India would have doubled in just one year.
      Here are the new links:
      Nation Master
      Rediff News

  22. vatsal permalink
    February 7, 2013 4:12 pm

    india needs citizens like youl


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