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New PM Narendra Modi must usher in much-needed police reforms

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

These are exciting times for self-styled experts to proffer advice to the Prime Minister-designate. I cannot be different by resisting the temptation of telling him what he should do and what he should not.

Narendra Modi is a hard-boiled politician who had taken the rough with the smooth in the battlefield of a state administration. His problems with maintaining law and order in his domain are too well known to elaborate. This is the supreme advantage of an experienced Chief Minister of a state being catapulted to the position of the country's CEO. He knows where the shoe pinches, and, therefore, what I pen in this column may not exactly be Greek and Latin to him.

I am conscious that as PM he will not have much to do with the police or justice administration. Home Affairs is too mundane for a PM, who has far more critical things to handle. If you are asked to describe the Indian Police in just two or three words, one need not spend too much time. 'Overworked, corrupt and people-unfriendly' correctly depict our policemen, and very few Chief Ministers consider it worth their while to try to repair this image. Barring a few, the greater concern of many of them is how to misuse the police so that their political ends are met and their foes fixed. Whether Modi will have the time to attend to this vital task is an entirely different proposition. I will, however, be echoing the views of millions of aam aadmi, that if he can't do something about this, no one else can, in the near future. Right now the belief is the policeman is feared by the honest citizen and befriended by the underworld.

Modi has gone on record to say that it would be his endeavour to carry all the 29 states with him, irrespective of their political complexion. A certain bonhomie with the Chief Ministers would greatly help in the process of mending the Indian Police. The subject of policing receives only token attention at conferences of CMs held periodically at Vigyan Bhavan. Modi should ensure that this ceases to be a mere ritual, but is a serious and meaningful exercise that pays more than cursory attention to police problems. A lot will depend on the choice of a Home Minister. Some of the recent occupants of the chair were disasters. Some appointments by the outgoing government to key police jobs at the Centre were highly questionable, and this has to end. Seniority could be one criterion, but suitability is equally important. Lobbying by some officers who want to stick onto Delhi has resulted in some bad choices. Keeping the ruling party bigwigs away from the process is a delicate task, and the new PM will have to have machinery that monitors the drill.

It is an open secret that many state governments have subverted the apex court's directive — issued a few years ago — as a sequel to the PIL filed by Prakash Singh, a former DGP of Uttar Pradesh and DG of BSF. The Court has had to appoint a committee subsequently to find out why certain reforms recommended by it had not been implemented.

Modi will have to persuade the Chief Ministers to bring about real changes in the system as contemplated by the apex court. If sincerely implemented, these measures could impart greater professionalism and confer the required independence to field police officers to thwart unethical directions from a ruling party.

The writer is a former CBI director


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