If safety cannot be guaranteed as a right in India, blame it on the country’s abysmal police-to-population ratio. With just one policeman for 761 people which translates into approximately 131 policemen per lakh population, India has fewer cops per capita than most other countries.
In contrast, for every Indian VIP, there are three police personnel. There are as many as 47,557 cops protecting 14,842 VIPs across the country which comes to a ratio of three is to one. Not surprisingly, there exists a huge gap in the quality of policing for the man on the street vis-à-vis our lal batti (red beacon) flashing VIPs.
Ideally, a policeman should look after just 568 people (176 policemen per lakh population) as per the Bureau of Police Research and Development under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Even this fails to meet the United Nations recommended figure of roughly 222 policemen for a lakh of population i.e. 1:450.
In India, law and order is a state subject. But, states too have failed to provide adequate police personnel to look after their population. Against an ideal police-to-population ratio of 1:552, a policeman is guarding 1173 people in Uttar Pradesh. In West Bengal, the ratio stands at 1658 against the sanctioned 1187. In Gujarat and Bihar one policeman guards 1021 and 1456 people respectively as against 1187 and 571 sanctioned respectively.
The national capital Delhi which garnered bad press after the December 16, 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case, performs relatively better with one cop for 253 people. In Karnataka, one policeman guards 751 people as against the sanctioned 656 whereas in Rajasthan, one policeman looks after security of 895 as against the sanctioned 814.
While the common man on the street faces shortage of police personnel, our powers that be are protected by an average of three policemen at the expense of taxpayers.
The BPR&D data shows that among the states, Punjab topped the list with 5,811 cops to secure VIPs followed by Delhi (5,183), Assam (4,278), Andhra Pradesh (3,664), Bihar (3664) and Uttar Pradesh (3087) respectively despite facing shortage. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, 928 and 876 policemen are guarding VIPs. Observing that an indiscriminate exercise in providing security to VIPs resulted in abuse of power, the Supreme Court has also slammed the centre and states earlier this year.
On top of it all, the problems emanating from shortage of police personnel further gets compounded due to poor remuneration and working hours. While the Sixth Pay Commission has improved the salary packages of our police personnel, it remains less than satisfactory seen in the context of rigorous work hours, challenges and risks faced by them. As per the grade pay of sixth central pay commission policemen get the maximum salary in West Bengal. West Bengal provides the best salary package to policemen (DSP, Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Additional Sub-Inspector and Constable). For instance the salary of Deputy Superintendent of Police in West Bengal is 9000-40500+5400.
The Padmanabhaiah Committee in its report on police reforms recommended an organized time table for police. The report said, “Since police work cannot be organised on an 8-hour shift basis, police personnel should be given a weekly off and (be) compulsorily required to go on earned leave every year. Holiday homes may be constructed for police personnel.”
Another study titled - ‘Mental Health Problems among Police Personnel an Epidemiological Study’ was completed in 1996 by SM Channabasavanna pointed heavy workload on police personnel. As per the findings of the study conducted in Bangalore, Dharwad and Delhi 52 per cent of personnel in Delhi cannot give time to families, as they do not stay with their families, as in Bangalore (95 per cent) and in Hubli (85 per cent) personnel with their families.