A high alert on the India-Pakistan border has put the police forces in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer clamouring to give arms training to police personnel so that they can handle emergency situations at the border and nearby areas. This raises the question — why are police personnel across the country not trained to use modern weapons as a basic necessity for service? Police stations, too, are not allotted modern weapons like mechanised guns and smoke grenades. There is no mention of bullet proof jackets anywhere in the regular police uniform.
Most of the police personnel are assigned old, seldom misfiring or non-firing, colonial era Lee Enfield bolt action rifles. Constables are ’armed’ with ancient weapons like a long stick. Officers are the luckier of the lot and they are provided a service pistol. There is no self protection gear as part of the routine police personnel gear. How can we expect a cop to brave his life in absence of any of these necessary equipments?
Furthermore, the police personnel are not trained, even if ill equipped, to use assault weapons like semi automatic or automatic machine guns. These are supposed to be preventive measures and not emergency exercises. When terrorists confront policemen with AK-47 rifles, nobody needs a second guess on who has the upper hand. Terrorist attacks are no longer confined to Kashmir or border areas. The threat looms large across the country. In such a situation, every police station needs to be equipped with proper equipment so that it enables police personnel to neutralise the threats and save lives.
This concern is not newfound. When Mumbai was attacked in 2008, several policeman, when confronted with terrorists, were not able to handle rifles to shoot the terrorists down. At least 187 persons were killed in those attacks and several more injured.
Eight years on, police personnel are still ill equipped. As the first line of security for citizens, the country is crying out for a structural overhaul of the police forces. Adding to this, the police force is also alarmingly shorstaffed. As against the UN suggested minimums of minimum 270-280 personnel per lakh citizens, India has around 150 per lakh citizens.
India doesn’t need another wake up call like 26/11 for these reforms to take place. There was a large hue and cry about need for police reforms in 2008, but the change still hasn’t taken place. In threat situations, the paramilitary forces are not the first ones to confront the threat of terrorists. If police are left with a handicap then the security on ground will never improve for the citizens.