June 7, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether community policing initiatives will be practical in the Indian context. We also look at the revamp of the Council of Ministers in Odisha, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Community Policing – Is It Practical In India?
Law and order and policing, in particular, have become a hot-button issue over the past couple of years. In the United States, people poured onto the streets in the wake of police brutality against racial minorities. With the complicated nature of the police-citizen relationship, some see a breakdown in trust. But what does police reform look like?
One approach is community policing, which is gaining ground in some countries. With over a billion people and a high population density, can this be the right way forward for India? Or does police reform in India take another form, given the institutional constraints and societal concerns?
Community policing is when the police work closely with the citizens to maintain law and order. Given its inherent on-the-ground nature, community policing gives more discretionary power to the lower-ranked officers. It’s a decentralised control of policing. There’s a greater focus on forming a relationship with the people.
Police reforms have been discussed for a while, but it hasn’t produced anything concrete. Police distrust has been evident for decades. As Sanjiv Krishan Sood, formerly of the Border Security Force, wrote, the typical response that people get from the police when approached with a grievance is indifference, if not abrasiveness.
While the government looks to technology to help the police identify and capture alleged criminals, police reforms from the bottom up have been ignored or not given as much attention as it deserves. With concerns about police reform, the National Police Commission was formed in 1977. It was the first Commission appointed at the national level post-independence. Among its tenets were the police’s role, functions, accountability, relations with the public, and political interference.
The Commission’s third report highlighted the police response towards weaker sections of society. It noted dissatisfaction of weaker sections is due to the police not taking note of their complaints or ill-treatment. The Commission’s fifth report highlighted the poor state of public relations. The reasons cited were corruption, brutality, and failure to register offences and complaints.
During the height of the Delhi riots, the actions of the police came into question. As Shweta Chauhan, Superintendent of Police in Arunachal Pradesh wrote, it was a tough time to be a police officer, given the large-scale protests. She states how the Khaki has the maximum visibility of all government functionaries and the police perform duties despite the disdain from the public.
In the United States, some have called for ‘Defunding the police’ in the wake of police brutality. Before such calls came to the forefront, the United States launched the 21st Century Policing task force. In the city of Camden in New Jersey, the murder rate came down by half thanks to the task force’s recommendations.
In India, one could argue that the police infrastructure’s dismal state is a reason for the disconnect with citizens. A 2018 survey from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) revealed less than 25% of Indians trust the police. In such circumstances, can bringing together the police and the people they protect result in a safer society?
VIEW: It can be done
If there has been a shift in attitudes toward community policing, it’s probably because there’s some recognition that the community is the best resource and possibly greatest ally in fighting crime and maintaining peace. Technology can be used, but it hasn’t proven to help reduce crime on the streets and bridge the trust gap.
Community policing played an essential role as the pandemic set in. In Delhi, for example, the police launched a community education and awareness drive on violations against the protocols. Among the participants were resident-welfare associations and neighbourhood-watch committees. Dr Om Mishra, Joint Commissioner of Police for the Delhi Police, said community policing during the pandemic had improved the trust between the police and the public.
One of his recommendations is to involve the community more directly in policing. He called for legislation that would allow the police to nominate responsible citizens as grassroots volunteers. Another example is Bengaluru. In 2013, the city police launched a community policing initiative in seven police stations. A follow-up survey found that most stakeholders, citizens included, felt that community policing helped resolve conflicts.
COUNTERVIEW: Nice on paper, but…
Due to societal complexities, organising a community task with a large number of people has never been easy, especially in India. It can be an exciting prospect on paper, but how will that translate to the real world? It will be tough to keep a community policing initiative at the top of everyone’s mind for a while, at least long enough to show some results. It would also need to be implemented across various cities and demographically diverse locations with its own complications.
Can the community and police administration institutionalise community policing? This is important considering communities can undergo geographical and demographic changes. The same goes for local administrations and governments. In some situations, the government would probably be best placed to handle things. There’s also the issue of infrastructure. In the 2019-20 budget, funding for police modernisation increased by 8%. However, data shows non-availability of wireless communication devices decreased by 231% between 2012 and 2016.
What good is community policing if there’s no leadership and institutional change in the functioning of the police? We’re talking about values, morals, and ethics. Changing the culture of an organisation isn’t easy. Changing culture means a change in behaviours. For religious and other minorities, there’s already an inherent distrust of the law, and understandably so. When it comes to the police force, accommodating the nuances of community policing is a challenge.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Community policing is the right approach to police reforms in India.
b) Community policing is the wrong approach to police reforms in India.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
I Saw In Rahul Gandhi’s Cambridge Talk A 1915 Congress Moment
For the Left:
PM’s Tough Decisions Have Put India On High Growth Path
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Sewage treatment plants (Uttarakhand) – The Centre has sanctioned 36 sewage treatment plants in the state to rejuvenate the Ganga. The projects come under the National Mission for Clean Ganga’s (NMCG) Namami Gange initiative. The Centre wants to ensure that every section of the river gets clean water. It includes intercepting drains falling into the river and diverting them to the treatment plants.
Why it matters: Earlier, sewage was flowing directly into the river. Now, it’s being treated at the plants. The NMCG has also constructed ghats and crematoria to keep the river clean. It’s also working with state and local authorities to educate the public about keeping the river pollution-free. Microplastics are among the most common pollutants in the river at various places. Due to various festivals, the river has become polluted over the years.
Eco-sensitive zones (Kerala) – There’s some concern about the Supreme Court’s directive mandating a one-km ecosensitive zone (ESZ) in all wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. The Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA) said almost 1 lakh families and 20 towns will be affected by this order. Wildlife conservationists have welcomed the decision. Forest Minister AK Saseendran said Kerala will try to convince the apex court and the Ministry of Environment and Forest about its concerns.
Why it matters: Kerala has 24 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. If the mandate comes into effect, it will make 2.5 lakh hectares of human habitations a no-development zone. The ESZ will help reduce man-animal conflicts as it will provide a buffer. For development purposes, the order will affect the construction of hotels and commercial establishments.
Council of Ministers revamp (Odisha) – Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik unveiled a revamped Council of Ministers. The new council doesn’t have some controversial names but does give more representation to the western region of the state where the BJP has performed well. It comes a day after all 20 ministers resigned. As part of the reshuffle, Patnaik dropped 11 ministers of both Cabinet and MoS ranks. Some of them will be given organisational duties.
Why it matters: The BJP suffered setbacks in west Odisha in the panchayat and urban local body elections in February. With greater representation in the western part of the state, Patnaik could be eyeing the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. In the 2019 election, the BJP won seats in regions such as Balasore, Bargarh, Bolangir, and Sambalpur.
Online loan apps (Maharashtra) – Maharashtra Cyber has received more than 1,900 complaints concerning online loan apps since the beginning of the pandemic. It recently sent a notice to Google’s US office directing it to remove 69 apps suspected of unethical practices. The authority said at least 376 complaints processed so far concern harassment by loan recovery agents. Among the apps mentioned are Cash Advance, Yes Cash, Handy Loan, and Mobile Cash.
Why it matters: Loan shark apps charge high-interest rates to process instant loans. They use the confidential data of borrowers to blackmail them. As Maharashtra Cyber has registered an FIR, it could lead to a bigger crackdown on such apps. They’ve also forwarded the complaints to the Thane and Mira-Bhayander police.
Lipstick plant discovery (Arunachal Pradesh) – Researchers from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered the rare Indian lipstick plant in the Anjaw district. The rare species has been discovered after more than a century. It was first identified by British botanist Stephen Troyte Dunn in 1912. It has a tubular red corolla, due to which it’s sometimes called the lipstick plant. A review of documents and a study of new specimens confirmed that it was the species called Aeschynanthus monetaria.
Why it matters: Aeschynanthus monetaria is unique among other Aeschynanthus species found in India. It’s differentiated by its fleshy orbicular leaves that have a greenish upper surface and purplish-green lower surface. It grows in moist and evergreen forests at elevations ranging from 540 to 1130 metres. Following guidelines from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the species has been categorised as endangered.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
10% – India has achieved a target of turning 10% of its petrol into ethanol-blended petrol five months ahead of schedule. Its aim is to double this by 2025-26 to cut dependence on oil imports.