The latest riot in Saharanpur, in which three lives were lost and property worth millions gutted, has shaken the nation. Even as efforts are on to bring peace in the district, the role of police has come under the scanner. Initial findings by the state administration suggest that the local administration could have prevented the riots if decisions were taken promptly.
Saharanpur mirrors the larger Indian reality. In the last two years, India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh has seen more than 200 riots. However, the state has failed to take appropriate measures to curb them. The state has the largest police force, but it also has the poorest police-population ratio.
As it is said that the devil lies in details, the state faces a huge staff crunch. UP has only 81 policemen per lakh against a sanctioned strength of 178 cops per lakh to serve the people. In terms of staff crunch, UP is the third lowest after West Bengal (78 per lakh) and Bihar (69 per lakh), according to a reply by Kiren Rijiju, minister of state of home affairs to a question on July 22 in Parliament.
Acute shortage of cops is not just Uttar Pradesh’s story but of almost all states for dealing with regular crime, militancy and investigation. At the national level, against a sanctioned strength of 181 police per lakh, only 136 policemen have been employed. Several countries such as Canada (191.4), Italy (549.9), Spain (313.0), USA (223.6), have higher police-population ratio than India, according to a report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The country is not only grappling with staff crunch in the police department but shockingly also in paramilitary forces.
The ministry of home affairs admitted in Parliament on July 16 that there are 71,520 vacancies in paramilitary forces. Among them, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) (18,868) has the largest number of vacancies while Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which provides integrated security cover to public sector undertakings and airports, is facing a staff crunch to the tune of 15,295. Similarly, the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) (13,462) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) (13,222) have more than 10,000 vacancies.
Such figures don’t augur well for the country’s internal security preparedness when around 34 districts in the country are Naxal-infested and another 83 are partially affected.
In the next two years, paramilitary forces are likely to face another chunk of staff shortage. Government estimates show that more than 90,000 posts are likely to fall vacant. With more than 35,000 posts, the CRPF tops the list while in the BSF more than 26,000 places are likely to fall vacant.
In the last five years, most paramilitary personnel took voluntary retirement and even resigned from service, mainly due to personal and domestic reasons, marital discords, personal enmity, mental illness and depression.
Shortage of officers has also hit the armed forces. This comes at a time when India has to defend its large international borders along Pakistan and China. More than 10,000 officers’ posts lie vacant in the armed forces, according to minister for defence Arun Jaitley in a reply to Parliament on July 8. The Indian Army is short of 8,455 officers, the navy 1,672 officers and Indian Air Force has vacancy of 532 officers.
Earlier this year, the Standing Committee recommended a scientific study to find suitable vacancy for filling defence posts. The number of officers commissioned during 2009, 2010 & 2011 were 1,373; 1,488 and 1,780, respectively.
“The committee is dismayed to learn that against the satisfactory picture given by the (defence) ministry, the three forces are deficient in its strength of officers,” the report had said.
According to the report, the shortage of officers in the army is partly attributable to accretions, tough selection procedures, difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk involved in service career.
With the recruitment process so slow, the question is how long India can continue to brave such shortages.