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Thick red lines

Everything that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the conference of DGs and IGs of police on Tuesday points to the...

Written by The Indian Express |
September 17, 2009 3:55:01 am

Everything that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the conference of DGs and IGs of police on Tuesday points to the impression that UPA-II has grasped the need to fill the lacunae in UPA-I’s handling of internal security,particularly its studied reluctance to improve and enhance our security forces’ strength and performance. This difference has also been evident in the functional and rhetorical contrast between the current home minister and his predecessor. One cannot overstate the need to equip,train and accommodate police and paramilitaries adequately. With several states ravaged by the Maoists,as well as the persistent terror threat that India faces,police reform cannot wait. The Union and state governments must hereon display the political will to realise police reform,ensuring the advent of “new age” police personnel whose professional and motivational standards,as well as training,equipment and empowerment match the challenges they face.

Last month’s chief ministers’ conference on internal security asserted the need for overhauling intelligence gathering; and the PM has just emphasised the need for capacity-building from the police station upwards. Indeed,grassroots policing (typified by the beat constable) is the beginning of intelligence gathering. That could pre-empt many disruptive acts. Increasing the number and personnel strength of police stations,raising the currently dismal police-population ratio,as well as procuring state-of-the-art arms and forensic technology are imperative. All of this,coupled with a networked national criminal database,would better check regular crime and multiply police firepower against insurgents. Andhra Pradesh has already showed how carefully-gathered local intelligence and a dedicated crack force can curb Naxalite reach.

As the deaths of 30 securitymen in Chhattisgarh in July or the Nalco siege in Orissa in April demonstrated,India has been failing its paramilitary and police consistently. Nalco exposed their subhuman living and working conditions. Insurgency and terrorism cannot be battled on the cheap. For the sake of civilian security,India must upgrade its police forces many times over. It should begin by enhancing their battle-hardiness and operational safety.

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