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Police reforms: When,how?

“The Indian National Congress recognises the imperative of police reforms....."

Written by Bibek Debroy | New Delhi |
June 8, 2009 2:47:05 pm

“The Indian National Congress recognises the imperative of police reforms. A clear distinction between the political executive and police administration will be made. The police force will be better provisioned especially in the matter of housing and education facilities; the police force will be made more representative of the diversity of our population; and police recruitment will be made more effective and training professionalised to confront new and emerging threats. Accountability of the police force will be institutionalised.” That’s from the Congress’s electoral manifesto for 2009 and sounds good. After all,police reforms are a critical component of public governance reform and however minimalist one may be about the government,law and order is a key governance area. There is no dearth of recommendations. But,as most people know,nothing happened till Supreme Court’s “Prakash Singh” judgment in 2006. The Centre and states were supposed to comply with seven directives by December 31,2006. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s website shows compliance has been pathetic and the Supreme Court has had to set up a monitoring committee for state governments. During UPA-I,if one asked the Centre why the police reforms were stuck,response would be that this was a state subject.

One needn’t necessarily buy the argument. For instance,Maja Daruwala argues modernisation grants can be linked to introduction of police reforms in states. Or the Centre can comply with those seven directives. Or the Congress,if it is serious about police reforms,can introduce it in states where it rules. (In contrast,in Rajasthan,police reforms have been in reverse gear since the change in government.) If police reforms are a state subject,why was it mentioned in the Congress manifesto for Parliament,as opposed to manifestos for state elections? Don’t authors of the manifesto know the Constitution? Perhaps one has figured out a way to incentivise states,such as through linking of modernisation grants. That option was also available during UPA-I and if it didn’t happen then,why should it happen during UPA-II? That’s the reason why one should be sceptical about electoral promises and subsequent promises through 100-day plans. The final argument advanced in favour of UPA-II is that there is a better Home Minister now. Why was an “inefficient” Home Minister retained for the bulk of UPA-I? Since the Left didn’t perform an obstructionist role here,the conclusion can only be that police reforms weren’t important to the Congress. What’s the evidence they are important now?

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