The Union Home Ministry has written to police forces across the country to assess their efforts to encourage citizens to move to cashless transactions and curb fake currency and anti-national activities, so that “the objectives of demonetisation are fully accomplished”.
The Home Ministry’s letter, titled “Implementation of pending recommendation of DGsP-IGP Conference (2014, 2015 & 2016)”, was sent to all police stations in the country on September 18. A status report on each pending recommendation was to be submitted to Superintendents and Commissioners of Police by Thursday.
The move came about, the letter mentions, during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on August 25, 2017, where it was found that proof of pending recommendations being implemented was present only on paper, but “no evidence was found that action had been taken on those recommendations”.
Among the five pending recommendations from the November 24-26, 2016, DGsP-IGP Conference in Hyderabad, which Modi inaugurated, are those relating to digital transactions and demonetisation. From the recommendations made at annual conferences of Directors General of Police and Inspectors General of Police between 2014 and 2016, 25 are still to be implemented by the police of states and Union Territories, the Ministry’s letter says.
Other key recommendations that remain pending for implementation include using Aadhaar data to the advantage of police, compiling a “data bank” of government employees living in the jurisdiction of a police station, and “honouring” journalists who portray the police positively in their reports.
All state police forces must “educate people to enable the move to cashless transactions”, the Home Ministry has recommended, and asked Union Territories and particularly the Delhi Police, “to take the lead role in this exercise”. The letter asks officers in charge of police stations in large towns about action taken to reach out to shopkeepers and traders in their jurisdictions to educate them.
The recommendation from the 2016 Conference that the letter accords the highest priority to, is to “curb fake money, arms smuggling, and other anti-national activities so that the objectives of demonetisation are fully accomplished”.
The letter asks the police of each state to collate answers sent by police districts and city commissionerates and send a comprehensive report to New Delhi.
When contacted, Maharashtra Director General of Police Satish Mathur declined to discuss the letter or its contents. Another senior IPS officer, who has reviewed the letter, said it was strange that already stretched police forces were being saddled with the responsibility of educating citizens about cashless transactions, which is not a core policing function. “Maybe the decision was taken considering the law and order situation last year after demonetisation when people were angry and there were small incidents in every city,” the officer said. But another senior police official, who oversaw the gathering of data from police stations, said, “By this logic, virtually every walking human being would become the responsibility of the police.”
A senior IPS official who asked not to be named said demonetisation, which had come into force only weeks earlier, was accorded the highest priority in the 2016 Conference. “A lot of demonetised currency was being seized all over the country, so it became important to curb fake currency,” the official said. After the Conference, however, educating citizens about cashless transactions became part of “providing a service to citizens”, senior police officials said. Maharashtra Police launched a helpline in three languages in association with Axis Bank earlier this year to help police personnel understand how digital payments worked, apart from providing general banking services. Among pending recommendations from 2015 are for police stations to maintain a data bank of government employees living in their jurisdictions “irrespective of ranks/posts” and to “honour media persons/journalists who invariably write/express positively for maintenance of law and order at state level…”
A recurring set of recommendations from the 2014 and 2015 Conferences is for the police to engage in foot patrolling for four kilometres, and to persuade private citizens and businesses to install CCTV cameras and co-ordinate between agencies concerned with the maintenance of CCTV cameras.
Through the week, police stations across Mumbai have scrambled to submit forms, which were to be filled in English, before the Thursday deadline. Most police stations are learnt to have simply stated in the action taken reports that the recommendations were being implemented, without providing specifics — except for the number of CCTV cameras installed in their jurisdictions. Several of the police personnel entrusted with filling out the forms conceded privately that they had simply copied what counterparts at other police stations had written, as several recommendations stumped them.