Gist of EPW May Week 2, 2019

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.

 

1. The Fate of New Police Initiatives

Context

  • As part of its community-policing initiatives, the Maharashtra police has decided to institutionalise the “best policing practices” that were or are being followed in districts across the state.
  • The community policing initiatives include the “police didi” programme in Mumbai, the “bharosa (trust) cell” by the Pune and Nagpur police and so on.

Police Didi

  • The Police Didi initiative launched in 2016 after a series of sexual harassment cases were reported from schools.
  • It has created awareness among young girls about ‘good touch and bad touch’.
  • Furthermore, as a result of awareness, the number of cases registered pertaining to sexual harassment of children has seen a dip.
  • The main motive of starting this initiative was to reduce the otherwise rising number of molestation cases against children.
  • Under the project ‘Police Didi’, designated female officers talk to women and young girls from the particular areas about the problems they face, especially those pertaining to sexual harassment.
  • Female police officers work with the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) and are well trained to provide assistance to minor victims in handling cases with utmost care.

Issues with this program

  • On the face of it, this move seems a welcome one. But from the past we have observed that initiatives are discontinued after the officers who started them get transferred to other jurisdictions.
  • Obviously, this means that the thinking and good intentions behind the initiative do not get fully ingrained in the institutional culture.
  • The overall image of the police and the force’s efficacy—though different in different states—needs long-term bolstering through major reforms.

Challenges in Policing

  • It has been repeatedly pointed out that India’s ratio of police persons per 1,000 people is 1.2, which is grossly below the United Nation’s recommendation.
  • There are huge vacancies in almost every state, especially in the non-Indian Police Service posts.
  • Problems of overwork, lack of leave, poor dietary habits due to long hours of duty, lack of decent housing and so on are just some of the issues they face.
  • Then there are the more endemic issues like the lack of caste and religious diversity in the force, and the attitude towards women constables and assistant inspectors.
  • It is also well known that the overall dismal conviction rates for most major crimes stem from poor investigation, and forensic skills and means.
  • One aspect that is constantly mentioned and criticised is the “political interference” in police functioning and the political executive’s hold over the force.
  • While this is true and the various recommendations by retired senior police officers and others on this issue must be examined, it is not the main issue.
  • As many activist–lawyers have pointed out, it is not a rare practice for the political class to appoint police chiefs who are amenable to pressure and diktats that suit the former.

Steps taken to overcome challenges

  • According to media reports, the introduction of eight-hour shifts in Kerala and Mumbai has been welcomed by the police therein.
  • 10 states in the country have implemented a host of police reforms, including filling vacancies and introducing state-of-the-art technology in dealing with crime.

Conclusion

  • The most important issue that has to be addressed is accountability of the police to the larger community and their attitudes towards tribal, marginalised, Dalit and women complainants.
  • The attitude of the citizen and male police officials is hardly praiseworthy when it comes to policewomen who are not from the IPS cadre. Their training, postings, etc., need to receive urgent attention.
  • Policing is, or rather should be, and aimed at providing a safe ­environment to the community.
  • As noted by experts, it is the only non-combatant organisation that can use force against citizens and curtail their liberty.
  • Such power must be tempered by its own moral and social consciousness. The initiative announced by the Maharashtra police must take these factors into account when it institutionalises the best community practices.

For more EPW articles, read “Gist of EPW”.