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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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The brutal gang rape of a young girl in a Delhi bus resulting in her death has ignited widespread public anger and outrage throughout the country. There has been severe denunciation of the police for its failure to secure safety and security of women and bring perpetrators of crimes against women speedily to book. The fact cannot be gainsaid that crimes against women at present get a low priority in police work. One of the tests prescribed by our ancient law givers for judging the crime situation is that the situation is fine if a young beautiful girl laden with gold ornaments can walk at night in the road without fear of getting robbed or molested. By this test, the crime situation in the country, and particularly in Delhi, is very disturbing.

There has been an exponential increase of crimes against women not only in Delhi but all over the country. In 2011, 2,28,650 incidents of crimes against women were reported as against 2,13,585 in 2010, registering an increase of 7.1%. According to the crime clock (based on the statistics provided by National Crime Records Bureau), in 2010, there has been one crime committed against women every two minutes, one molestation case every 13 minutes, one rape case every 18 minutes and one kidnapping and abduction in every 14 minutes.

However, these statistics are misleading and only reveal tip of an iceberg. A very large number of cases are either not reported to the police, or if reported, not registered. Non- registration of cases is a malady afflicting seriously police work in India and this is more so when offences against women are concerned. Unscrupulous officers find it easy to refuse registration of cases lodged by women, and particularly poor women belonging to marginalized groups. On a very conservative estimate, 30% of the cases reported to the police are not registered because police performance in prevention and detection of crimes is judged on the basis of statistics. Further, because of the attached stigma and shame, rape remains one of the most misunderstood and unregistered crimes in India. Very often, on the question of jurisdiction, police delay registration of cases, forcing the victims to move from pillar to post.

The massive burking of crimes highlights the imperative need for crime victim surveys in order to get a more accurate picture of the incidents of crime. In many European countries and America, such surveys provide dependable database and many criminologists regard victimization surveys far more reliable than police statistics. Unfortunately, victimization surveys have seldom been done in India.

Perfunctory Investigation
Again investigation of offences in cases of crimes against women is often very perfunctorily done by the police, and no wonders, such cases end up in acquittal in courts of law. In many cases, because of non-submission of final forms within three months, the courts bail out the culprits, who then create problems for the harassed victims and their relations.

Crimes against women require extra sympathetic handling of the traumatized victims. Gender-insensitive police officers heighten the trauma of the victims by asking embarrassing questions. There is utmost need for gender sensitization of police personnel of all ranks. During a research project sponsored by the NHRC on Trafficking in Women and Children it was found that the number of police officers of different ranks across the board, who had undergone gender sensitization training programs, was embarrassingly low. Mere training will not help unless values and principles instilled during the training programmes are sustained by organizational culture. Senior police officers have to be firmly told that display of disrespect and unconcern for women by the police subordinates will be an unflattering reflection on their leadership.

Women Police Officers
Investigatory work of the police, and particularly investigation related to crimes against women, is seriously handicapped by shortage of women police officers all over the country. Representation of women police officers in the entire police force of the country is less than 4%, and in Delhi it is barely 7.6% of the total strength. In cases of sexual violence, female victims feel embarrassed to answer probing questions by male investigating officers and failure in getting information from reluctant victims go to weaken the case. Female police officers, in order to be effective, have to be properly trained in sympathetic and supportive interrogation techniques. In my long police career I have come across women officers as insensitive as their male counterparts. There is also a need for capable staff earmarked only for investigation of cases and there is an imperative need for substantial augmentation of staff as well as separation of investigation from law and order work of the police. This mandatory directive of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singhs case has to be immediately acted upon.

It is true that police response to women victims of crime is callous and insensitive. Masculine and patriarchal culture of police is a reflection of the gender-insensitive culture of Indian society where women do not enjoy much respect and the consideration they deserve.

Justice Verma Commission set up after the incident of gang rape has strongly pitched for police reforms in its report as recommended by the National Police Commission and further reiterated by the Supreme Court in Prakash Singhs case. It says that urgent reforms are needed in order for India to attain a standard of policing which is based upon a positive and cooperative relationship between civil society and the police service. To make police force professional and impartial, it has to be unshackled from the political masters who use it to further their vested interests. The Commission has also emphasized the need to develop community policing to give human face to police uniform.

Again, for improvement of police response, it is absolutely necessary to take steps to improve the poor and depressing conditions in which the police officers and men work in the field and woeful lack of amenities in police stations and outposts. Long hours of work (15-16 hours a day), without any overtime allowance, absence of recreational facilities and abysmally poor housing conditions de-motivate them and exercise a coarsening effect.

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