The Prakash Singh committee appointed to probe acts of omission and commission on the part of police officers and civil administration during the Jat quota violence in February has pointed to the institutional decay over the years which played its part in the massive administrative collapse in Haryana during the stir.
“The bureaucracy in the state has lost its elan. The police has forgotten that it is the strong arm of the state and that it is expected to use appropriate force when the authority of the state is challenged. Officers have started looking up to the political masters for directions even when law has given them specific powers and authority. There was institutional decay, leading to loss of initiative and officers playing safe most of the time,” says the report.
“Our established institutions and the recognised hierarchy should be able to rise to the occasion, howsoever serious, and deal with it. The problems of the kind we all witnessed arose because institutions have been subverted, procedures have been corrupted and the police organisation in particular has been politicised to an extent where it has become almost dysfunctional and incapable of handling very grave situations,” it says.
Singh also expresses dismay at the decay of the institution of divisional commissioner in the state. “Haryana state has excellent commissioners… However, we would have been happier if they had extended guidance to the district officers in their moments of crisis instead of state government having to transplant officers from Chandigarh,” says the report, referring to the decision to send a group of senior IAS/ IPS officers from Chandigarh when the situation spiralled out of control.
The report says the committee was “surprised and disappointed that the state has no system of (or, maybe, the system has fallen in disuse) situation reports (sitrep) being sent by districts on a daily basis when the situation is really serious. It is a standard practice in most of the states that when there is serious law and order situation, the deputy commissioner/ district magistrate and the superintendent of police send a joint sitrep to the home department, DGP and other concerned officers every evening to keep them posted of the latest developments. The practice also ensures that the DC and the SP work in close cooperation.”
About the hesitation in use of force during the violence, the committee found that “over a period of years, during successive governments, officers had become used to disputes being resolved at the eleventh hour by the politicians. Besides, the use of force was frowned upon by the establishment.”
The committee found that officers in general felt that the government does not want firing to be resorted to even under grave provocation and that there should be no loss of life due to police action. “It was for the government to have dispelled this impression. An order or instruction from the chief secretary or the additional chief secretary (home) would have made a world of difference. Unfortunately, however, there was no such missive,” says the report.