The annual conference of the directors general and inspectors general of police (DG/IG conference), beginning today in the Rann of Kutch, is significant not because it’s being held in Gujarat, and outside Delhi for the second time, but because it will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all three days. The conference, organised by the Intelligence Bureau on behalf of the Union home ministry, discusses the common issues of state police forces and Central armed police forces and looks for strategies to face new challenges — the most critical areas being terrorism and insurgency, intelligence collection and sharing, investigative standards, force modernisation, human resource upgrade, etc.
The most important and challenging task faced by the law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies today is the collection and analysis of preventive intelligence and follow-up action, especially pertaining to terrorists and insurgents who pose a constant challenge to internal security. While there’s a dire need to improve the capability of the intelligence-collection machinery and upgrade its resources, the intelligence-sharing mechanism leaves a lot to be desired. Our intel, collected by state and Central agencies, still sits in silos. Apart from the fact that it’s often not analysed properly, the mania for getting credit drives the organisation having the intel to follow it up even if it doesn’t have the wherewithal. Our efforts in setting up the Natgrid, to build a secure sharing platform, have remained tied in knots despite huge investments. The DG/IG conference needs to discuss and find a way out of the current situation and lay down a roadmap for establishing a robust intel collection and sharing mechanism. The Central intelligence agencies have to strengthen their capabilities and also help states upgrade their machineries for collecting both human and technical intelligence. States also need to pick up on generalised inputs flowing to them and work on specific information, rather than ignoring it all as vague and non-actionable.
The other important, but badly neglected, aspect of policing is criminal investigation. Standards have declined sharply in the last few years. Unfortunately, the so-called premier investigation agencies like state CIDs and the CBI are no exception. Apart from investigations and conclusions of trials taking an abnormally long time, these tend to fall flat in court, often attracting the judiciary’s wrath. On the other hand, investigation is no longer a coveted job in the states. The
investigations in, say, the Aarushi Talwar or Sheena Bora murder cases, or the Salman Khan case, speak volumes about falling investigative standards. The fate of cases involving terrorism is no better. Several cases investigated by special units/ agencies have not only ended in acquittals but also resulted in courts posing serious questions as to the veracity of the evidence presented and the procedures adopted. The directors general and inspectors general of police attending the conference need to discuss and debate this situation to find urgent remedies. They also need to examine existing laws and procedures and suggest modifications and measures for improvement.
Central investigation agencies like the CBI, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate continue to have huge vacancies, as officers from states are not willing to join and sister agencies are staffed with officers from the Central armed police forces. Even the apex court’s direction to fill these posts and experiments like additional remuneration have not yielded the desired results. This is unfortunate, and it can’t be allowed to persist. The conference may discuss whether a system whereby certain posts in the investigative wings of states are financed by the Centre and states are obligated to depute a fixed number of officers to Central agencies could be the way out. These officers may revert to the states after five or six years, taking with them valuable investigative experience. A system of fast-track promotions — based on merit determined by a limited competitive exam — for officers recruited at the sub-inspector level, who have put in a certain minimum amount of service, may be another solution.
Most state police forces continue to use obsolete equipment and arms, and lack the latest technology that would help in investigation and intelligence-gathering. Sadly, whatever progress they have made in these areas, has been on account of modernisation grants sanctioned by the Centre. State governments haven’t considered it their responsibility to apportion a part of their budgets to upgrade police capabilities, even though law and order is their domain. They need to realise that investing in better law enforcement will yield dividends in the form of more economic investment and development.
Another problem is the lack of an organisation to provide the police forces with tested and dependable specifications on equipment and technology. They are generally dependent on vendors, who often sell outdated or not-so-suitable technology. Though the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has been tasked with this responsibility, it hasn’t been able to fulfil this need. The conference needs to discuss a mechanism, under the BPR&D and with the involvement of organisations like the DRDO, the IITs, IISc, etc, to help decide on specifications for equipment as well as identify and develop the latest technology to be inducted at regular intervals. IIT Bombay’s effort to set up the National Centre of Excellence in Technology for Internal Security, with assistance from the department of information technology is a right step.
Well-trained and motivated human resources are key to any police force’s success. Andhra Pradesh’s GreyHounds are a shining example of success in meeting internal security challenges. However, there aren’t many other examples. Most states have a huge number of unfilled vacancies.
They tend to fill these on the eve of elections and train personnel in facilities arranged in an ad-hoc manner. Police personnel, therefore, remain ill-equipped to meet ever-changing challenges. There’s a need for advanced personnel planning and commensurate training facilities. Most training academies are poorly staffed and often don’t have the necessary facilities. Institutions need to be upgraded in terms of facilities, equipment and technology. The best officers must be encouraged to join as trainers. It must be mandatory for personnel, including officers, to undergo in-service training before promotion.
While the DG/IG conference is attended by the Union home minister and senior ministry officials, it doesn’t involve chief secretaries and senior officers of the state home departments. This is peculiar since law and order, as well as investigation, are state subjects. Any recommendations or decisions arrived at cannot be implemented without the express support of state administrations. As it happens, this annual exercise has made several recommendations in the past, but it has not been able to deliver much as follow-up and implementation are forgotten till the next conference. The state police forces and the Central armed police forces have been facing several problems and confronting new challenges. To tackle these, a dynamic national strategy and farsighted policies are required that go beyond state boundaries. The DG/IG conference should, therefore, serve as a platform for serious thinking on issues confronting the police. It’s to be hoped that the prime minister’s presence will provide the necessary impetus to senior officers to make an objective assessment of where they stand today and what they are required to do in the next five years to meet the complex challenges of policing and internal security.