Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lessons from Mumbai

The Mumbai terror attack has made the nation sit up and collectively think as to what preventive measures need to be taken. Some of the suggestions are, re-enactment of POTA, giving more teeth to the existing laws, setting up of a federal investigative agency to investigate terror crimes, having small units of NSG commandoes in each state, improving existing intelligence gathering machinery, strengthening coastal security and the like.All the above suggestions are very valid and need to be considered. However, what is more important is strengthening the police station set-up and improving the human resources already available. Many may not be aware that it was only the officers of the local thana in Mumbai who succeeded in nabbing a terrorist alive. When two terrorists first killed Karkare and his colleagues, hijacked the police van in which they were travelling and started shooting at the passers-by, the officers of the local police station erected barricades near Girgaum Chowpati. When the terrorists changed into a car and did not stop near the barricade, the assistant sub-inspector and his men shot at the occupants, killing the driver and nabbing the other alive. But for this act of the local police, in which a policeman was killed, we would not have immediately known about the how and why of this attack on Mumbai.

The police station is the basic unit in the system. Depending on the area and population, it may have a strength of anywhere from 20 to 200. It is the first point of public contact, and is the first place which should get intelligence about what is happening in the area. This is done by keeping regular beats, public contact meetings, posting pickets, etc. If a station house officer does not know his jurisdiction or the people who inhabit the area, he is unworthy of his job. What is unfortunately happening is that the SHO does not have time for basic police work since his time is taken for bandobust or security related duties. Beats, through which valuable intelligence can be collected, are rarely sent because of shortage of manpower or lack of it due to other pressing duties. Delivering its judgment on police reforms, the Supreme Court directed that the law and order and criminal investigation duties be separated. For this to be followed there needs to be a systematic manpower planning for each police station.

Every police station, depending on its area and size, should have two to 10 constables only for intelligence collection. The information brought by them needs to be assessed by the SHO or any officer senior to him and depending on its ramification, needs to be shared with higher ups. An intelligence network needs to be set up at the city and district level and all important matters need to be transmitted to the state level. Immediate preventive action can be taken thereafter.

Gathering information or intelligence is not an easy task and one needs to develop sources over a period of time. For this to happen two things are necessary, people-friendly policing and fixed tenure. Most people in India hesitate to approach the police. In fact, a lady in Mumbai reportedly saw a dozen young men carrying rucksacks get down from a dinghy at Cuffe Parade and was suspicious about them. Yet she did not report this matter to the police resulting in so much of bloodshed.

The SHO of a police station should have a minimum tenure of two years so that he or she is able to know his/her men and area thoroughly. This is not happening despite the Supreme Court order in 2006. Beat constables and special branch constables also need to be on the same beat at least for two years so that they can develop sources. Prevention of crimes can happen only through better intelligence gathering.

Capacity building of police officers needs to be taken up on priority. Constables and sub-inspectors are hardly sent for training courses once they are confirmed in service. The various skills that they possess are not identified and developed. Due to manpower shortage and law and order duties, men are not sent for training programmes. While assessing manpower requirements of police, a training reserve of at least 25 per cent of sanctioned posts need to be created, so that one fourth of the strength is always undergoing training.

The man behind the weapon is more important than the weapon itself. He must be recruited in a fair manner, he must have proper working hours and rest, (a recent survey conducted by the author revealed that most policemen work for more than 10 hours a day for about 350 days a year), and his persona must be allowed to develop. His skills need to be identified and constantly developed and he must be motivated. If a dozen terrorists with two month training can create havoc in Mumbai, cannot thousands of policemen at the disposal of society effectively tackle terrorism?


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP