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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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Why do people in India love to despise the police? The seeds of the mystery are buried in the deep history of the British Raj, so deep that the modern narrative on the subject hardly ever brings it under scrutiny.

The original culprit is the Police Act of 1861 which laid the foundations of the current police systems in the country. The Act was a creation to safeguard the Raj and its officialdom and not the interests of the people. The Act, among other measures, established the rural police to control crime and law and order in the villages of the country. The rural police who were expected to patrol the villages were not provided funds for transportation or food while on tour. They were expected to live off the ground. The practice grew into the hafta habit, overlooked by the administration on one hand but treated as unwarranted imposition by the people at large.

1947 when India emerged as an independent nation saw no change in the Act or the practices it had spawned. The new executive infrastructure continued to exercise the same absolute control over the police through the mechanism of superintendence enshrined in the law. The systems were not altered to bring them in line with those in other democracies of the world that all preferred to give their police an autonomous status for it to function in an independent accountable fashion. Only autocratic or despotic dispensations like to keep their police structures under their thumb. For the Indian Police passage of India from colonialism to independence only amounted to change of masters. Instead of the earlier Raj agenda, the police were now constrained to support party and personal briefs. Whims and fancies of the ruling classes now defined what needed to be done or avoided. The interests of the Aam Admi were never the prime consideration of the powers that be. The Aam Admi in independent India also started believing that police was no friend of his.

The Indian Evidence Act added to the miseries of the police and enhanced the distrust which the society had for the police. This law stipulated that no confession made before a police official would on its own constitute valid evidence in a court of law irrespective of his rank. In other flourishing democracies of the world the word of a policeman has the same value in a law court as that of any other government functionary.

The Constitution of the country also handicaps the operational objectives of the police. When it makes police a subject within the exclusive jurisdiction of the States, it automatically denies the Centre any rights to constructive deliberation on police issues. This has resulted in numerous problems since the police remain at the mercy of the state executive. The magnitude of the resultant harm is glaringly evident in the way terrorism and Maoism, arguably the most sinister threats to national security, are being handled in the country. No national policy to tackle them can be evolved. There is no national coordination. No effective single national instrument to deal with them holistically can be created. The menace is forever enlarging and advancing into new regions but the central or state rulers remain helpless to find effective remedies.

This results in a cognitive blackout in the minds of the people. They remain unaware that the resulting law and order problems or their sense of insecurity are not all because of police failures but because of a structure of laws and the vested interests of its beneficiaries that make such failures inevitable. Disgust against the police naturally soars

Such an unfortunate predicament of the police is well recognized since long by the well wishers of the police. Numerous commissions at the central and state levels after deep scrutiny of all the factors have suggested a slew of reforms to convert police into a people friendly effective, accountable and transparent institution. A committee under the eminent lawyer, Soli Sorabjee, drafted a new Police Act to replace the Act of 1861 but the state or central administrations have shown almost total indifference to the recommendations. Their attitude proclaims that let the people suffer or the police have a damaging image but they cannot let go of their powers of superintendence over the police as otherwise their freedom to use police any way they want will get curtailed.

Seeing no other way out some activists finally took the matter to the Supreme Court in 2006 through a PIL. In 2008 the Supreme Court gave mandatory directions which would make police autonomous in investigations, guarantee them at various levels a minimum tenure of posting and free the appointments of Director Generals of Police from the benumbing control of the executive heads of the governments. A mechanism was also provided to look exhaustively into complaints against the police. Sad to say the mandatory orders of the Supreme Court have not been implemented by any one and none has been held accountable. One wonders if the reluctance of the Supreme Court to move speedily into the matter reflects a cultural bias of the judiciary against actions against the political class where issues could be seen as infringing on the personal privileges of this class. Be that it may, this much remains certain, the infirmities of the police and its consequential impact on the sensitivities of the people will stay as they are, for long years to come if such a mindset continues.

The conflicts between political assertiveness over the police and simple needs of people for security and stability lead to many legal, moral and philosophical conundrums. The police under no circumstances should cross the red lines of law and human rights but the state fails to provide them with alternatives to operate effectively and decisively in Maoist affected environments without causing alienation among people.

The criminal justice systems of the country and societal fault lines worsen the police image, making policing a democratic society a thankless job. Rampant corruption among bureaucrats, politicians and judiciary has made crime a low risk and high profile business. The judicial system gives no joy to the people because of its bullock cart speed. Under trials constitute the majority population in jails. The police public ratio in India is about 113 per lakh of population when it should be around 232 -245 according to international standards. The police are simply unable to cope with its various burdens and its image plummets. In Delhi, three policemen are deployed to guard every VIP. For the rest of the citizens there is one for over 700.

The nature of the Indian society throws up constantly big challenges for the police. Its linguistic, ethnic and religious divisions often create confusing scenarios for the police. Local loyalties and prejudices make short work of the larger commitments which a citizen must be presumed to hold for his country. In the cross fire between narrow interests and abiding values the police turn out to be the ultimate losers.

A society gets the police it deserves. If the society will not rise to higher values, neither will the police. In UK the police are now a well loved institution. Police in India should be given the same pedestal that the judiciary enjoys. This can only happen if all the stake holders here do their bit. It is wrong to say that the police are failing the Govt. and the society. On the contrary it is the Govt. and the society that are failing the police.
Security and safety of women
Among the crimes against women in India rape is the most heinous but rape is not necessarily an act of a deviant mind. More often it is a crime of opportunity. The intent behind the crime can be an amalgam of several thought streams.

Principally it is not about sex. The main motivation could be a drive to seek domination and power with ingredients of intimidation and violence interlaced. Instinct has a big role. It is important to understand this to determine how rapists should be punished.

Human beings, like members of other animal species, are born with four instincts, hunger, fear, aggression and libido. This is natures prescription of survival for the species. Instincts add up to a crime when social or legal norms and codes are violated. Seeking release of libido becomes rape when the boundaries are transgressed.

Among the four natural instincts mentioned above, libido is the strongest, believed to be a thousand times as strong as the other three. Thoughts about it are said to be constantly swirling in the mind. The Oscar winning Hollywood actor, Dustin Hoffman, was reported to have disclosed in an interview that he was thinking about sex every seven minutes. Most males have a similar experience. There was a revealing story about Swami Vivekanand who was once so plagued by it that he sat on a hot stove to eliminate it, scorching his underside.

Seers, are, thus, also not exempt from its searing intensity. Our mythology relates many anecdotes of holy men not able to control their libido and losing their discrimination.

Fulfillment of a sexual desire is a natural quest. It becomes a rape when sex becomes a mechanism for establishing power and domination. Punishment for rape should not therefore be just a deterrent against crimes of opportunity. The search for appropriate remedies should also scrutinize the sociological order which invests men with embedded power over women. It will be discovered such power is exercised wherever men interact with women, such as in families, work places, educational institutions and on the streets. The phenomenon receives support from religious doctrines, social customs and traditions and biological reality of men being of a stronger built than women.

The requirement for prevention then boils down to an all pervasive empowerment of women, to prevent their abuse in all spheres and fields, not just protecting them against assaults. Empowerment necessarily entails giving women gender equality in all manmade equations including legislatures and political parties.

And yet there is one area where gender equality cannot be practiced, the differences imposed by nature. Because of this, the female remains the quarry, the male the hunter. This stark reality needs to be recognized: its neglect creates problems. Feminists may feel outraged but the fact remains that certain decorum in dress and conduct reinforces the protective armour of the woman. It is not for nothing that advertisers of products insert the comely figure of a woman in their advertisements in print or electronic media. Their logic is that the figure will remain long in the minds of their viewers, reminding them of the product advertised, resulting in larger sales. The feminists should agitate against such exploitation of the female figure which creates a reaction akin to arousal. Legal steps in this context also need to be considered. Some do regard depiction of alluring female figures in advertisements as a version of soft pornography and hence reprehensible. Some corresponding taboos should also be placed on the film industry.

Some feminists may claim that women have a right to dress skimpily or make themselves look sexy. But all will agree that none should move on the streets entirely in the nude. The desire to look sexy should be tempered by the awareness that it could be mistaken for an invitation to sex. Just as excess alcohol blunts discrimination, projection of sex appeal through sexy appearance can play havoc in the minds of men. It is pertinent to recall the words of Paramhansa Ramkrishna that had Sharda Devi not bound herself rigidly with a moral code he might have slipped.

It should be noted that that strangers do not constitute the largest number of culprits assaulting women. According to the figures of the National Crime Record Bureau for 2011 as many as 94% of culprits come from known circles of the victims. Among these close family members including parents number 1.2%, other relatives 6.9% and neighbours 34.7%. Some offenders come from army or police who are out on patrol duty. Those having custody also sometimes victimize their female charges. Thus by and large women must learn to be not too trusting.

Human right activists are forever seeking to extend the frontiers of human rights irrespective of the consideration how they impact on the citizens expectations on their security and stability. They also oppose capital punishment. But the stark truth is that experienced police officers all over the world disfavor abolition of death penalties just as they stand against the concept of diminished responsibility or against sentimental leniency of the judges. Their attitude is not an indication of either cruelty or vindictiveness: they are just being partisans for decency and order.

A combination of laws prescribing tough retribution with training in morals and ethics at every level of education and insistence on parental teaching would seem to be the best stratagem to counter natural animal instincts. To reinforce societys concerns, the culprit needs to be portrayed as a public enemy. It follows that such persons should be debarred from standing for elections of any kind, and those already elected should stand ejected. This will be possible only if suitable laws are now enacted.

To conclude, external agencies cannot ensure absolute security for women. An equal responsibility, if not more, lies on the women themselves on an individual basis for ensuring their security and safety.

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