Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bombay Attack: From the Heart of A Fellow IPS Officer

Dear friends,

As I write to my batchmates of business school, I grieve the death of my batchmate of IPS – Ashok Kamte in the terror attack in Mumbai. Kamte was a very bold, professional, sincere cop who was also a National level weightlifter – very brave and handsome. I grieve his death. But the reason I write to all of you is this -

Another Terror attack in Mumbai and I expect the same stereotype stands from the political parties, same response from the media and the same anguish and feeling of helplessness from the public. Rightly so, they ask, what is the Government doing about it? The opposition parties will exploit the situation to say that the Government has been soft on terror, should invoke POTA like legislation to curb terror, should hang Afzal Guru, etc. If legislations stop terror attacks then Maharashtra should have been safe – it has MCOCA in place (MCOCA has all the ingredients of POTA). Even Delhi has DCOCA, but the terror strikes happened here too. If  deterrent strong action of hanging terrorists is an answer, then Punjab terrorism should have being put to an end after hanging the assassins of Indira Gandhi. But it did not. While legislations and awarding deterrent punishments are very essential in our fight against terror, then are by no means sufficient to put an end to terror.

The public at large rightfully ask – if US could stop terror attacks after 9/11, why can't our security system do the same here? Friends, we will continue to have such attacks till we as a nation and as a society do not decide to invest in the police of the country. We expect a first-world police reaction from a third-world police. You will be surprised to know that even today many of our police stations do not have vehicles. As for connectivity amongst police stations, while police stations (PS) have radio communication sets (RT sets), in some States the PS do not have an extra battery to keep the sets working – this means that they switch open their RT sets every two hours to check if there is any event of any consequence!! This is when even the poor in our country can afford mobile sets!!! We still have weapons that are outdated. We have no centralized database to check on identity of person detained. This implies that if I detain a suspicious person in Delhi and he says that he belongs to some village Begumangalam in district Nalgonda in AP, I have no way to immediately verify his identity - unlike the US where a centralized databank will let you check his antecedents in a matter of few seconds. While there is about 1 policeman for every 300 people in US, in India we have one policeman for every 1000 people – and mind you the cop of US is supported with technology, communication and cyber connectivity and vehicles, which increases his capabilities manifolds. Cases take decades to get conviction, unlike the US where it is disposed off in months time. What will a criminal be afraid of, if he is not punished? Police leaders are hardly kept in their places of postings for a significant time so that they can improve situations – I, for example, have been transferred 27 times in 9 years of active policing in UP!!! Political insulation from professional work does not exist. We always talk of Intelligence failure – but what infrastructure we have there is a matter of concern. There are many more issues of manpower, equipment, infrastructure and the like. But we as a society are not bothered – or is it that human life, and more so a life of a policeman, is too cheap? Or is it that we are not aware of the deficiencies in our security systems?

Each political party will make use of another terror attack as an oppurtunity to malign the other and claim that it will improve security situation when it comes back to power. As if POTA or hanging Afzal Guru will! The reaction of the Government is also on the same lines – will legislate a strong anti-terror law, will create a federal agency, will bring in police reforms, etc. Haven't we heard the Governments in power repeat the same after each terror attack, but still nothing happens. All political parties, whether in power or outside, are the same. They misuse the police system to meet their selfish ends. Unfortunately these terror attacks are only 'action events' for the media to keep people hooked on to the TVs. But hardly we have informed and consistent discussions in media to improve the security situation.

Friends, the reason I write this mail is because I feel that you all need to make yourself aware of the realities of the police. Police is hated, to say the least. But because it is hated, you don't keep yourself away from the malaise and refuse to raise a voice to improve it. Police impacts you on a day-to-day basis – your sense of security and dignity depends upon that. But why do we, educated people, not raise enough hue and cry so that the political parties are forced to change the policing system and hence improve your security? Friends, please become aware of the realities of policing and beware of rhetoric of political parties – the solutions they offer are  superficial and will not improve security situation. You can't build an edifice of security organisation with a weak and hollow foundation. 

Excuse me for my outburst and discontinuous thoughts – I kept writing what ever came to my mind. But please make yourself aware and let others know where the lacunae lie and build public opinion so that security systems improve. Else please be prepared for mindless killings and falling policemen (by the way, did you know that the number of policemen who have died in the line of duty over the last 10 years is more than the total Army personnel who were killed in all the wars together since 1947? We lose almost 3 policemen per day!!).

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