Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our police forces are not even equipped to handle terror.....

While the NIA is now entrusted with the job of handling terror threats, it is always going to be up to the local police to smell out the threats that may be lurking all around. But what is the status of the various police departments in the country? Pathetic to say the least.

Take the example of the Mumbai Police. Once touted as one of the best in the world, it is today in a state of total decay. Let’s look at what all ails this force which is supposed to provide security to the financial capital of the country....(now its not my intention to compare NY police with Mumbai police.....I am doing this because many of my friends keep referring to the US in their handling of terror...):

1)      The total number of police personnel in Mumbai is some 41000. They are supposed to look after the security and well being of some 20 million people. That comes to some 200 police people per lac of population. In contrast, NY has some 45000 police personnel who take care of just about 80 lac people. And even New Delhi has some 55000 people for a smaller population that Mumbai’s. And let’s not forget.....our people need more policing.....if the cops are not there, our people are far more ok to break rules than people in the US.
2)      A bulk of these police personnel are in the traffic department. Given our traffic conditions, and the traffic sense of our people, I doubt if the traffic police has any time or inclination to keep their ears to the ground.
3)      The budget of the Delhi police is about Rs 3000 crores per annum (2009-10 as announced by Pranab Mukherjee in his Union budget – remember, Delhi police comes directly under the Center). This itself, was doubling from the previous year’s budget. I couldn’t find the Mumbai Police budget on the internet, but from what I read, the budget is a max of Rs 2000 crores, but is probably much less than half this number. In contrast, the budget of the NY police department is about $4 billion (Rs 20,000 crores). Now I know that the US is a much more expensive place, so in PPP terms, it’s not that much over, the fact remains that that budget is to take care of a much smaller population.
4)      The quality of people who work in the police department in Mumbai and New York is totally different. Just look at the salaries offered to the Commissioner of Police of Mumbai....the senior-most officer in the city’s police department. His salary (including “grade pay”) is around Rs 50,000 per month. I am sure there will be other “perks” but even then the salary will go to about Rs 1 lac per month max. That’s after some 30 years of “distinguished” service and after being a part of the elite IPS cadre. In contrast, a sales executive in a good private sector company with 5-7 years experience can earn that much in Mumbai. In New York.....the starting salary after the training at the Police Academy is some $45K per annum and this can potentially double in some 5-7 years time (as per their website). See the difference? The NY police pay is comparable (and probably better than) to the pay in the private sector. That’s why it attracts good people. In contrast, the Mumbai police attracts mostly the “bottom of the pyramid” staff. These people are barely literate and hence extremely uncouth. They see a police “vardi” as the passport to undoing all the atrocities that they have themselves been subject to for centuries. They have probably paid to get a posting in they are entirely happy to get all of it back in whichever way they can. No wonder, the police department is amongst the most corrupt of all government departments. The exception is the IPS officers – who are smart – but honestly, who wants to join even the IPS in today’s consumerist times? A clean police chief of Mumbai cannot afford an LED TV, a vacation abroad, a decent sedan.....why should anyone want to become one, if it wasn’t for the obvious chances to make money on the side and the power that comes along with the job.
5)      There are very strict laws in the US about how many hours a cop is allowed to put into his job. He is given 27 days of paid vacation and unlimited sick leave with full pay. In India in contrast, most cops are overworked.....they may be inefficient and may waste their time when on duty.....but they are not “on leave” officially. Given our pollution conditions, most of them are half choked to death by the fumes. Given our food habits, most of them are overweight.....I am sure most cannot even run after a thief. Given their living conditions, most won’t even be getting a decent night’s sleep.
6)      The Mumbai Police has 1200 jeeps/light vehicles and 1400 motor cycles – it has no helicopters to the best of my knowledge (research did not show it, though Delhi Police does have one helicopter). In contrast, the NY police has 9000 cars and 8 helicopters to aid it in its duties. Do you see the difference here????

The biggest problem that ails the Mumbai Police is of course, the exact same as the one that ails most government services – be it the IAS or any other. The salaries are pathetic and hence no good person wants to join the government. Some of my friends argue that these people get more than what 90% of our countrymen get.....but that’s not the way it works. These salaries simply cannot attract good people. And in spite of such pathetic salaries, as much as 85% of the department’s budget goes behind salaries (certainly the case with Mumbai Police). No wonder they have nothing left for “capital expenditure”. My research shows that Mumbai Police spent Rs 45 crores on capital expenditure 2009-10 of which Rs 35 crores was on “machinery”. I guess, this must be traffic lights and the like. No wonder, we see this terrible state of disrepair in the so called “best” police department in the country.

Then there is this other huge problem which I touched upon yesterday. Internal security is a state subject. And since different states are ruled by different political parties, it proves very difficult to get all of them to talk to each other. The police department is deeply entrenched into the political system – and political interference is a well known fact. While our anger today is directed at the central government, the fact is that it can do absolutely nothing except “cajoling” the state departments to upgrade. It is for the state government to provide the funds. The problem with this is that the poorer states obviously have a much smaller budget....and these are the ones that have the biggest crime problem. Just look at the Naxal problem. It’s a problem attributable to poor economic growth in the first place.....and ironically, for the exact same reason, the police department has no funds to fight them.

Is there a case for centralizing the internal security apparatus? Should it be a central subject rather than a state subject? The politics here is clear. State governments use the police force for serving their own agenda. The police is often made to target opposition leaders and condone the handiwork of the leaders of the ruling party. Just look at what happened in Godhra. The police department was told by the Gujarat CM to “look the other way” (now I know this is not proven.....but there is a strong suspicion of this). As one who has lived in Ahmedabad for over 20 years, I know this to be a distinct possibility. Was the Gujarat police able to find who killed Haren Pandya, the former Gujarat minister? If the states were to surrender their powers to the center, how would they be able to do all this?

Look at the controversies surrounding the NIA itself. The NIA has the mandate to enter any state’s jurisdiction if it’s a matter related to terrorism. The NIA is investigating the Samjhauta Express blasts in which some 65 people died....most of them Pakistanis. The NIA found that there were Hindu extremist elements involved.....but this was enough for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to launch a motivated campaign against the NIA. With such parochial mindsets, I doubt if we can actually beef up our security apparatus......

As expected, the TV channels last night were full of celebrities of all nature and hue who got their time to rant about the state of affairs in our country. I liked Shobha De’s interview on CNN IBN the most. When Rajdeep pressed her for solutions, she said “I don’t have solutions” and went on again after the politicians! Advani spoke of this not being an intelligence failure, but a “policy failure” I guess he was being introspective since policies are a state government’s prerogative and his party rules at least 7-8 states in the country! And Kiran Bedi was fantastic too! When asked for solutions, she pulled out a 2006 newspaper clip which had also lambasted the state of affairs then and went into a political monologue demanding “what has been done???”....hello, isn’t she an ex-cop who could possibly give solutions? And exactly what locus Anupam Kher has to comment on everything from terrorism to corruption is something I have never figured out! That’s the state of affairs in India at the moment – everyone wants to crib....but no one has any solutions.

The real truth is that we have to become less critical and more solution providers. That’s when we can have a meaningful national debate. I listed some solutions yesterday. There must be many more. But first and foremost, let’s resolve to change the basic problems (like salaries, investments, budgets, political interference) that prevent good people from joining the police. Unless we do that, we should not expect much from these people.....


  1. I agree to your article completely... I have few opinions regarding all da issues related to mismanagement in government (this is what I have observed from my experience while studying)

    (1) the present politicians can not solve the problems existing, as they are the only one responsible for creating them. Now all of sudden we saw few opposition party leaders coming on television and shouting of policy failure... i have a simple question.. are this not the same leaders who did nothing during Kandahar Hijack but simply went and gave the terrorists...?

    (2) The most common problem that prevails in our nation is that our common man is not ready for a fight. When any terrorist attack occurs or any accident occurs say fall of bridge, water logging or anything den all of suddent a wave of anger will arise among people... They will come out and shout... Many famous personalities will go on News Channels and present dere views... Bhwaa bhwaa... common man will watch it... get angry, start debate, talk talk talk ant at last go to sleep.. Shhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! and next day morning he will start his life with the cup of tea..... and with no anger.. !
    (3) In a capitalist democracy; everything has price tag(not necessarily every time price is in money) and so has the justice. If common man is so concerned for justice than he has to be ready to pay the price. Ill give you a small example for dese... From years in one of da famous commerce college of our city(Ahmedabad)..... approx 25% of admission were being done without merit or out of merit as a result approx 200 students who were capable did not got da admission... dese year 6 students whose name were in merit were denied admission, as seats were full(not that 200.. dey were yet to be opened for payment and management quota).... Dese six students went to High Court and filed a PIL and filed RTI on university for data related to college admissions. Now highcourt sent a notice to both, the college and the university.. and see the effect.. till dat no admission out of merit list has been done dese year in that college. Now if these students wished they could have simply taken admission in some other college... but they gave a fight and as a result system had to deliver justice.
    (4) Similarly if each common man take responsibility for one problem in the society and files RTI and PIL..... Government would have to do the work... What we need for this is a patience and a spirit to fight among common people... But no everyone is lazy here... educated people in the society are only interested in making money and living comfortable life... dey will only shout if inflation curbs dere saving or a guttre chock happened and water get collected outside dere houses... Equal to the politicians, we all, the citizen of our nation are responsible for every problems existing here...! Can not every lawyer of high court file one PIL or RTI for any problem in society and keep on fighting for it..?
    (5) Today in our country more den dynamic politicians we need dynamic citizens who have guts to fight for the cause of society at dere own expenses and time.
    (6) Yes and as you have quoted what we need is smart people; especially managers in government services.
    (7) The success of any anti - terrorism institution does not merely depend on technology dey use... but it largely depends on brains that run those institutes and a support those brains get from Law, Ministers, Judiciary and people at a large..
    (8) India really needs a big wave of change in everyone right from Politicians to common man..!!!

  2. very nice article and I also state that poor countries like India, Pakistan cannot afford this brinkmanship. How much does India spend on Kashmir for instance ? is it worth it? is a negotiated Kashmir settlement better for the region. As the more major mature country in South Asia, India should strive for negotiated settlement. But even if India makes one single concession to Pakistan, I can imagine Times Now exploiting it to further their TRPs.