Tuesday, December 2, 2008


While politicians are justifiably facing intense heat for Mumbai 11/26, police officers have so far largely escaped any censure despite some startling revelations that have appeared in the press. There are undoubtedly many more skeletons hidden away by the police in their creaky, colonial cupboards. All these need to be dug out and shown to the people of India. Unless that is done, India and Indians will remain vulnerably to being mocked at and held to ransom by less than a dozen armed men.

It will shock many to learn that the policemen of Mumbai have not opened fire even for practice since their days as recruits. This despite the clear norms laid down for practice firing by policemen of all ranks. Worse, they are still authorised just 30 rounds of ammunition with their weapons as per the the police manual which most certainly has not been revised since the British left, even though they would not have even dreamt of the present security situation when they drafted it.

There is more. If a report in the Economic Times of December 2, 2008 is to be believed, the home department has procured just 577 weapons for Mumbai. If this does not shock you, then the fact that practice firing has virtually never been carried out due to "acute shortage of ammunition" and, horror, "non-availability" of a firing range certainly will. No firing range for the policemen of one of the biggest cities in the world? Will any one in the world believe it?

Who is accountable for these grievous lapses which have left the commercial capital of India almost stark naked and defenceless to terror attack?

In 1947, police in each state was headed by one Inspector General of Police (IGP). Today, Maharashtra has four DGPs and 22 Addl DGPs. Don't even bother to count the number of IGPs, Addl IGPs, DIGs and Addl DIGs that the state has. In 61 years, all that the colonial Indian Police Service has done is to effectively detach itself from real policing by creating scores of infructuous senior level posts, making a total mockery of the command and control structure and rendering any effective and professional response virtually impossible.

There is still more. As per the Times of India of November 30,2008, in the last eight years, Maharashtra government has spent Rs 940 crores on modernisation of the police. But most of the money has been spent on buying luxury sedans for the 26 DGPs/Addl DGPs and modern cars for the many IGPs and below, and construction of administrative buildings and new police stations. Money has not been a constraint in upgrading the firepower of the police at all. But, ammunition, of all things, is not available. Clearly, priorities have been horribly warped and they reek of a disturbing lack of professionalism and an absence of any sense of accountability and responsibility. To please their immediate political master and make him look the other way, the top brass of the police have placed at least 20 cars at the disposal of the Dy CM, for use by him and his friends, relatives, acquaintances and the like. Such freebies are all what most of our politicians are interested in.

With few weapons and no ammunition, all that Mumbai police has to fight terrorists are plenty of canes in the hands of policemen and plenty of cars with their far too many senior officers. This is how the police has prepared itself to take on terrorists armed with AK47 rifles and deadly explosives. That is probably why ATS chief Hemant Karkare and the two other police officers who were with him fell virtually defenceless to the bullets of terrorists on November 26, 2008.

Despite this criminal negligence and lack of professionalism, not one police officer has been fired. There is not even a whisper about holding someone accountable and giving exemplary punishment to those responsible for this fiasco. That is why nothing is going to change even now.

Heads never roll in India’s civil services, of which the Indian Police Service (IPS) is a part. The IPS controls all investigative and intelligence gathering agencies, and para military forces besides the police in all states. With such an iron grip over the complete internal security apparatus, this once elite cadre created by the British to serve their colonial interests, should have given to India one of the most responsive and contemporary homeland security systems in the world. But, the reality is actually quite dismal.

The badly deteriorated standards of the IPS led police have been visible to the nation for quite a long time. Only a few months back, top IPS officers were seen live by all as they cockily displayed their abysmal calibre and professional incompetence by blaming Dr Rajesh Talwar for murdering his daughter, Arushi, without having even a shred of evidence. The CBI, which took over the investigation, botched it equally badly. Something quite similar was on display earlier in the Nithari killings in NOIDA and the Rizwanur Rehman case in Kolkata. What happened to the IPS officers who first bungled up the Arushi case and then tried to cover it up with white lies? They were just transferred. The IPS officer in the CBI did not suffer even that tiny inconvenience.

That is all that happens almost always. That is at best what is going to happen to the police officers on whose shoulders squarely rests the blame for doing nothing even when adequate funds were made available to them to better protect Mumbai. They were in fact well on course to better protecting themselves by buying bullet proof cars, in addition to the luxury sedans that they have already 'armed' themselves with.

It is difficult to swallow the fact that IPS officers expect junior policemen to continue to go out and face bullets bravely with obsolete weapons and canes while they themselves are taking steps to cocoon themselves in the safety of bullet proof cars well behind them. Can there be a worse example of an utter failure of leadership and a naked display of the cancer of 'self before service' by men in uniform?

As always, soon everything will be forgotten, and a few from among the same culpable lot will land up heading the BSF, CBI, RAW, NSG, IB etc after a few years. What better can the nation expect from such individuals who have got fully involved with the politics of India but have not bothered at all to upgrade their professional skills to meet the challenges of the security environment that prevails today?

Armed Central Police Forces, also called para military forces, have grown exponentially since Independence. They have their own cadre at the officer and jawan levels. But what about their top leadership? It is of only untrained and unprofessional IPS officers who come in for a couple of years at the 'non-combat' levels of DIG and above. There is no integration or affinity between them and the junior leadership of these forces that they 'command' as rank outsiders. Why has this situation arisen? The need for getting faster and even faster promotions has completely overridden elementary and vital functional and professional requirements.

Why should IPS officers not come into these forces as platoon and company commanders and work their way up as one with and in these forces? How can you have the desired professionalism in a fighting force when its top leaders are non-professional outsiders?

Let us take this a step further. Since almost the whole country is now affected by terrorism, is it not the need of the hour to have one common entry for all police officers who alternate between central para military and state police duties so that professionalism as well as inter-operability between various police outfits is enhanced to badly needed levels?

The colonial IPS is clearly antiquated, even dysfunctional, in the changed environment. But will anyone have the courage to take that absolutely vital call before it is thrust upon him after the destruction caused by this mindless mayhem breaches all levels of tolerance? Politicians have absolutely no clue about how the real government, including the police, runs. They are, therefore, in no position to suggest what changes need to be made, and wind up parroting the recommendations of a few of the very insiders who do not want the status quo in their favour to be disturbed in any manner.

Is there any chance that the top brass of the police will have the courage and integrity to willingly admit that the time for a real paradigm change has come? There is no one in India who will get the answer to that question wrong.

So, the good news is that when terror strikes Mumbai again, no IPS officer will be killed, thanks to his new bullet proof car. Only a few ordinary cops will be killed standing up to terrorists because the vast majority with canes in their hands will do the only thing they can, which is to hide, if they don't get hit.

The bad news is that hundreds of ordinary citizens will get killed yet again, and will remain hopelessly defenceless, till commandos are flown in to do the needful. Since the role of the police will again be limited to calling for help, IPS officers will also be given satellite phones with unlimited talk time so that their SOS calls to their families and friends don't get stalled due to jammed lines.
Readers may also read:
1. Making India safe: cosmetic changes will not stem rot
2. Mumbai 11/26: wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning