Monthly Archives: January 2014

Age of Transparency

AIbEiAIAAABDCNHI9JDL38HrYSILdmNhcmRfcGhvdG8qKGRmZjM3Y2IyNGFiNzVkYTE5Y2QxOWM5YjVjZDg5YzZhODkzY2FhYmYwAeb12e_1DLWxFoaTlOyiwl7aGBdwI have been watching the rise of AAP on the political scene in India through the very animated debates on the subject in the media. Their grassroots governance model in Delhi is clearly a new experience for the political establishment. Transparency in policy making and execution has not been  seen much in our institutions. Our Civil Services come with a tradition of opacity. Our governance institutions including from the political side have also favored this manner of governance. Even now, the implementation of the RTI Act finds a difficult acceptance in our institutions’ mindset. On that backdrop, I find SEBI a very unique institutional model. It was born with the mandate to make information public, so that investors can responsibly make their own decisions instead of the mai-baap government deciding what is good and bad for them. The Indian markets, therefore, evolved as a responsible investment destination in a short period of two decades after SEBI was set up.  In SEBI we have a regulatory institution which possesses the nimbleness to quickly respond to changing environmental conditions of the financial markets and its participants.

This nimbleness is however not seen in our bureaucracy and political system which had been traditionally used to closed door functioning. The current political climate of peoples’ demand for openness in their functioning, is bewildering and confusing to the establishment. The demand which led to the promulgation of the RTI Act in 2005 was only a baby step of this public demand. And as the political developments in Delhi and public agitations over issues of womens’ safety in the last year or so have shown, the demand is certainly growing more strident. The adjustments required for aligning to this new reality will surely be done by the political setup – however reluctantly that may be. But how and when will the civil services adjust to this new reality?

For the police, as part of the civil services, the challenge is even stronger. Traditionally, police has been an institution which believed itself to be the strong arm of the state. In the currently evolving social scenario,  the political set up across the spectrum, is showing signs – through their public utterances – of adjusting itself to the public demand for accountability and transparency, as a response to the emergence of competitive forces on the political platform. And in these new circumstances, the police is no longer an ally of the ‘political’ state. Instead, if the institution does not evolve into an organization delivering excellence and client satisfaction(read: complainants’ grievance redressal on crime and safety issues) in its activities, it will be seen to be more of a hindrance than an ally. A vision for the future is therefore required.

To my mind, the vision strategy for the police in India to remain an effective institution of the future, should encompass the following:

1. Create an organization which is truly a public service by erasing the arrogance of government service delivery systems. One way to do this without the pain of destruction and rebirth would be by aligning the police stations towards peoples’ expectations through iterative crime victimization surveys, wherein public perceptions on crime and safety in the police station areas are measured and the department works towards measurably improving those perceptions with each survey. I have written earlier on this at https://pradnyanblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/crime-victimization-surveys-for-police-reforms/ and https://pradnyanblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/more-on-crime-victimization-surveys/. I foresee an environment of service culture seeping into police station working and that too voluntarily rather than by force of circumstances, if such surveys are carried out.

2. Create excellence through specialization in the work of personnel in the   organization.  Clearly, peoples’ expectations from the police in how they solve crime, or use scientific techniques for detection and prevention of crimes and how they respond to public agitations, is unmet in the current situation. Developing these skills through training and also the large computerized backend environment required for it, is not achievable in months and is a medium term goal  at best, but there should be a plan or vision in place for the same.

3. Create dynamism within the organization  by frequently tuning in to public expectations on its performance, as can be done with research and surveys based inputs periodically feeding into the directions given to the police stations from the top management of the state police and encouraging competition between units to better each other in these assessments.

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Cost of a Police Station

AIbEiAIAAABDCNHI9JDL38HrYSILdmNhcmRfcGhvdG8qKGRmZjM3Y2IyNGFiNzVkYTE5Y2QxOWM5YjVjZDg5YzZhODkzY2FhYmYwAeb12e_1DLWxFoaTlOyiwl7aGBdwA police station is considered the basic unit of policing. So if we enumerate what the functions of a police station are, we should get a good idea on the resource requirements for good policing. A police station is set up to cater to the detection and prevention of crimes taking place in a limited jurisdiction. It is also meant to keep the peace in that jurisdiction by appropriately handling law and order situations that may arise. It collects intelligence to support both these functions by preventing disruption due to crime and disorderly incidents and making itself better prepared to tackle situations if they arise.

As crimes and public disorder situations have become more complex over the years, specialized units came to be set up to take the load off police stations in each of its above mentioned functions. So in ‘Investigations’, there is a special department – CID, for investigation of large impact, complex and  multi jurisdictional crimes. For terrorism related crimes, there are special investigation units like the ATS. For cyber crimes, there are Cyber Crime Cells.

When specialized handling of law and order is required, the Armed Police Reserve Units or special fighting squads for anti-terror or anti-naxal elite operations, are deployed.

For specialized and wider collection and appreciation of Intelligence, there is the Intelligence Department which has statewide jurisdiction.

Special police units are also created for specific purposes like, Womens’ Cells to handle domestic violence and such issues, or the Juvenile Aid Units for child victims or offenders.

Despite the specialization in niche areas, the relevance of the police station as the basic functional unit of the police department, to attend to peoples’ problems, remains paramount. The special units work only as enhancers of the effectiveness of the functions of the police station. In view of this primacy for the role of the police station within the structure of the police department, it becomes worthwhile to examine the cost of running a police station at the current average efficiency level-both in the urban and in the rural settings.

If one considers costs of only the operations of a police station(not the building and its maintenance and vehicles and their POL and salaries and allowances of personnel), for various activities required for ‘detection of recorded crime’, or costs incurred on unclaimed dead bodies or on towing unclaimed vehicles, the paperwork on translations and other activities involved in ‘preventive actions’ taken by police stations, expenditure in certain court processes like filing chargesheets in court,  costs of citizens meetings before major publicly celebrated festivals like Ganpati, Mohurrum, Eid, Navratri etc, costs of other citizens safety related meetings like the Mahila Dakshata Samitis or senior citizens’ safety meetings, costs of minor hospitality like offering tea etc to visitors or complainants at the police station, organizing small training seminars at the police station level for its personnel, cost of forms and registers required by rules to be maintained in police stations and cost of stationery required, it is estimated that such costs would not be less than Rs 5-6 lacs per urban police station and Rs 4-5 lacs per rural police station per year.

Thus, the operational expenses of a police station come from its functional needs in detection of crime, prevention of crime, collection of intelligence, public relations and community policing, court related work, costs of prescribed forms and office stationery items and these needs require specific funds provision and easy access to those funds for the police station chief. In absence of this, the police station operational expenses are ‘managed’ from non-government sources, since the appraisal of the police station in charge is made on the general performance of his police station, which in turn depends upon all of the above police station operations.

What needs immediate attention:

1. Police budgets need to keep the police station as an operational unit for allocation of resources and expenditure, similar to how the police really works. The evil of corruption in police will never be addressed until the basic costs for the functions of a police station are catered to in government budgets.

2. Empower the police station chief with enough monetary powers to run the police station as an effectively functional unit.