Punjab Police: Where are you marching?......by Pushpinder Singh Gill
December 5, 2021: "People cannot feel safe and secure if the law enforcers are weak, corrupt and partisan." - Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (At the passing out parade at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad on November 11) Police needs to be brought out of the shadow of Police Act 1861, which in the wake of 1857 revolt was designed to suppress the countrymen but continues to remain the basis of the present police system.
Police is a powerful tool available to the government for protecting society by maintaining peace and harmony but the pitiful state of Punjab agonizes me to highlight the unsavory aspects of woeful organizational culture and operational level undignified deployment of Police which otherwise can be a source of trust and legitimacy in our society.
Recently a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court in Sept 2021 seeking the constitution of a ‘model police bill’ to make the policing system efficient, effective, transparent, sensible, accountable, and techno-savvy, and to secure ‘rule of law’.
Earlier a landmark attempt was made in the direction of reforming the police system by means of the Prakash Singh judgment of the Supreme court in September 2006 however, the outcome of all the steps taken in Punjab is woefully inadequate.
The sudden surge of incidents like 1 kg of RDX in Dinanagar, hand grenade seizing or explosions in Pathankot, Jalalabad, and Fazilka, Tiffin bombs flown in by drones across the border create a perception of grave danger to the national security and peace & stability of Punjab.
Look through the maze and suddenly emerges similar situation in 2017 when a car blast shook the residents of Maur Mandi resulting in the death of several people.
The five years in-between this period were spent by Punjabis oblivious of the perils of being a border state. Come elections and it seems that our neighboring country suddenly wakes up and doubles its efforts to destabilize the peace and tranquillity, giving the politicians a much-needed diversion from real issues of governance affecting the daily lives of common people.
A critical look points to the role of the police force which is at the forefront of solving and preventing these horrific incidents ensuring ‘rule of law’. Judging by the images of the last few years it seems the role of Police is limited to protecting VIPs and cane charging protestors to disperse them at various places in the state.
Before visiting some figures and statistics to understand threadbare the ground reality of our esteemed Police force it is imperative to draw attention to the amount spent by the Punjab government per person as capital expenditure is Rs. 869 against Rs. 6038 by Haryana, our next-door neighbor. The National Average of all states for the same is Rs. 3509. . It is pertinent to remember that policing in India is a state subject which means there is significant variation across states in the functioning of the police force.
The comparative police spending per capita in 2018 unravel the picture: Punjab Rs. 1786, Haryana 1320, Maharashtra 930, Tamil Nadu 794, Uttar Pradesh 645, Rajasthan 621, and Madhya Pradesh 673. Punjab is spending much higher on the police force than many bigger states with several times its population. To understand this better, the population per policeman ratio for Punjab is 311, Haryana 413, Maharashtra 504, Tamil Nadu 607, U.P. 545, Rajasthan 703, and Madhya Pradesh is 632.
Punjab registered 72855 cases under cognizable crimes in 2019 whereas Haryana did 1,16,336, Maharashtra 5, 09,433, Tamil Nadu 4, 55,094, Uttar Pradesh 6,28,576, Rajasthan 3.04,394 and Madhya Pradesh 3,95619.
Apparently, these figures give the impression that Punjab has the lowest number of cases, the lowest number of people manned by a policeman, and the highest spent on the police force hence the law and order situation should be the best in the country but the report submitted by National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2018 paints a very different and worrying picture in which Punjab has a staggering 50 % pendency against the cases registered in comparison to the national average of 28.2 %.
The question that defies logic is, If Rajasthan can have pendency of 7.3 % and Haryana 16.7 % what stops one of the most modern and best-equipped police forces of Punjab from achieving it.
Poor cadre management in the backdrop of the history of fighting with terrorism has gifted Punjab with 7 DGP/Spl. DGP cadre officers against Haryana 4, Maharashtra 8, Tamil Nadu 6, Uttar Pradesh 15, Rajasthan 5, and Madhya Pradesh 12. IGP rank officers are 36, 12, 34,33,37,18 and 26 respectively. When it comes to AIDG/SSP/SP/Commandant rank policemen Punjab has the highest at 252 followed by Maharashtra at 245, Uttar Pradesh at 196, Tamil Nadu at 142, Madhya Pradesh at 109, Rajasthan at 98, and Haryana at 55. We need to ask for accountability from this institution for the things to change at the ground level and results to match the spending the state does on this department.
A top-heavy force is bound to have associated vices in an organization. According to estimates an ADGP, IGP level officers have a contingent of 70 to 100 police personal with him/her at all times in the name of security detail or household assistants.
The workforce gets depleted further when deployed in nonessential secondary duties with politicians, MLAs, and ministers. According to a senior officer in an informal discussion, almost 70 % of the entire police force is on security duty in the state leaving just 30 % to do the regular police work. Punjab is second to West Bengal in the number of persons who have received a security detail officially in 2019 at 2594; West Bengal has 3142 people and Haryana 1355. It is a mockery of the system that a leader of Shiv Sena (which has an almost negligible presence in Punjab) in Gurdaspur district has 18 gunmen with him.
The manipulations in state police have reached alarming proportions when nearly 300 people from outside the state also have been hired for politicians by changing the rules of recruitment to the state police force.
A large number of protected under security cover are purely for political or “prestige” reasons, and not necessarily because of any genuine threat. This arbitrarily creates a class of privileged persons to pamper society’s latent feudalistic tendencies. If exceptions need to be made in the public interest, they should be made transparently so that people retain their faith inequality before the law.
The theory that police works only by the wishes of politicians and not as per rule of law gains credence when the Ludhiana police instead of executing the non-bailable warrants issued by a local court against a sitting MLA in a rape case gives laughable excuses at every hearing.
The gravity of the situation emerges from the recent affidavits filed by the state in Punjab and Haryana high court stating that 163 cases are pending against elected representatives (past & present) from Punjab as against 21 from Haryana and 7 from Chandigarh.
A glaring example of the selective impedance of Justice is the cases against two former chief ministers which have been closed either by the vigilance team themselves or shoddy investigation where the court also ordered to initiate perjury proceedings against investigating officer Surinder Pal Singh and Supervising Officer B.K. Uppal for giving contrary statements.
The rot in the working of Punjab police runs so deep that it is common knowledge that postings of S.H.Os are done according to the ability of the officer to pay the fixed monthly rate. It is then very obvious that the said officer will not pay the money out of his pocket but will collect it from the people he is supposed to investigate and help punish. This accusation supports the figures of pendency mentioned earlier. The generally inefficient police are super competent in solving cases if the aggrieved party is a high-profile person.
A recent example is of a Member of Parliament who was duped by some conmen; the Police not only managed to recover the money but also brought the criminals from Jharkhand in a single day. Compare it to the fate of thousands of people who are duped similarly and are not even able to get their FIR registered leave alone the hope to recover their lost money.
The state must look after the welfare of the people and ensure they live in peace and harmony but the daily headlines of open gang wars, shooting, chain snatching, robbery, and fraud point towards a very serious law and order problem. It is enshrined in our constitution that every single citizen is equal before the law and deserves justice, not a select few who are privileged and wealthy. If the faith of the people is not restored in the police system it will erupt as dangerous consequences for our society as a whole. Visible patterns of unrest have started to emerge in instances where police parties are attacked openly by ordinary citizens taking the law into their own hands. This trend if continues will lead to civil unrest and damage caused will take forever to restore.
It is high time to make corrections through reconciliatory and reformatory measures in police organizations corresponding to the elements and components of the democratic system so that a serious attempt is made to combat organizational obsolescence making them congruent with the demands of society in the administrative framework of State.
The obvious solution lies in simply limiting the political executive’s control over the police - a point emphasized by various committees and the Supreme Court in their recommendations for policy reforms over the years.
Pushpinder Singh Gill, Professor, School of Management Studies Punjabi University, Patiala
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