I 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.