Human existence across the world is ensured in the form of its arrangement as a society, giving humans the moniker of being "social animals." The existence of society confers upon the individual possession of status and resources according to the status. Policing has historically found conception in the preservation of society and its arrangement of resources. Policing has existed throughout the history of human societies. Modern Policing as we know, where a separate organisation is designated with the task of dealing with internal crime is a relatively new phenomenon, a formal origin of which, in the Indian context can be given as the Government of India Act, 1858 and the subsequent Police Act of 1861. Both of these were in an attempt to prevent another uprising of the masses like 1857; the legacy got adopted as the Indian Police Services in 1948. For different Indians, this legacy has gained different meanings; for some, the Indian Police system is the thread that holds their comfort, for some, it is a tyrannical tool. Despite this diversity, policing is an essential public apparatus in India. When we ponder over the question of whether India needs stronger policing or not, the answer lies in how we define the strength of policing.
What determines "stronger policing"? Is it the number of police personnel per lakh of the population? Or should it be measured by their effectiveness in controlling the crime? And is Police Brutality a characteristic of the "strong police"? The author is of the opinion that "stronger policing" should be a metric that measures the effectiveness of the police force in controlling crime. Instances of police brutality, as evident in the cases of Jayaraj & Bennix in Tamil Nadu and many more across the country, exhibit a "weaker police" and certainly not "stronger policing". As per a report by National Campaign Against Torture, which was also reported by The Hindu, a total of 1731 people died in police custody in 2019 alone. This statistic appears here as a mere number but were once real living people. Given this, India certainly is in dire need of "stronger policing", but that must encompass the police force itself. "Stronger Policing" in India will continue to remain an oxymoron until and unless police reforms are enacted. In that context of police reforms, India has seen a string of committees but a sheer lack of commitment. From the National Police Commission in1977, the Ribeiro Committee in 1998, the Padmanabhaiah Committee in 2000, the Malimath Committee in 2002, the First Police Act Drafting Committee 2005 to the Second Police Act Drafting Committee in 2015, all give evidence of our failure at achieving true "stronger policing". The Indian Police force continues to carry on the legacy of its predecessors, the Imperial Police Force, in its stints that mimic the political servitude exhibited at Jallianwala Bagh. From the perspective of quality of policing, the author must say that India is in dire need of "stronger policing".
The agenda of "stronger policing", like many other Indian problems, is not just a behavioural one but a systemic one as well. As per the replies in the Parliament, as of March 2021, India has 155.78 police personnel per Lakh population; this is against the sanctioned strength of 195.39. This figure accompanies wide regional differences, with states like Bihar at 76.20 and Kerala at 152.49. The political argumentation in defense of these figures rides on the lack of any globally accepted optimal standards. But in a country that had 88 rapes reported per day in 2019, this argumentation looks like dark humour, if not an excuse. However, the use of the Police-to-Public ratio to look at the presence of "stronger policing" in India has its own limitations. Certain states like Goa have 511.78 police personnel per Lakh population; this doesn't necessarily point to "stronger policing", but a "denser presence of police force." Certain insurgencies hit states like Nagaland have figures reaching 1300.93, in Jammu and Kashmir of 2019, it had been 610.25, this makes the strength of the police force almost a counter-intuitive measure for "stronger policing", which we have already defined as a measure of effectiveness in controlling crime.
Another important aspect of the "stronger policing" debate is the unbiasedness and neutrality of the police force. With recruitment processes that are prone to manipulation, promotion and reward systems guided by favouritism, the Indian Police force faces deep-rooted, systemic deficiencies ailing its proper functioning. With these deficiencies in place, the prospect of "stronger policing" faces a strong setback. The Indian Police force of the post-freedom India, through its manipulation at the hands of politics, transforms into an entity which has all the vices of the British-Raj enabled Imperial Police Force with none of the virtues. In a diverse country such as India, the manipulability of the internal order keeping mechanism has far-reaching consequences in terms of communal strife and chaos. A recent example from Kerala showed a Kerala Police Officer, Anas P K, leaking the details of the members of a certain socio-political entity to a radical organisation claiming to be in favour of his faith. The leak was exposed at the cost of loss of life of the victims. Such examples, with varying orientation of the ideological identifications and affiliations of the people involved, serve as a grim reminder of the lack of "stronger policing". Another impediment to the proper functioning of the police mechanism is the lack of proper equipment. According to data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development, as reported by news portals like Scroll.in, as of January 2017, 267 police stations had no telephones, with 129 having no wireless connection devices. This utter lack of equipment is an insult to the sacrifice of the police officers who died fighting in the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, and Indian populace still seems to be not close to "stronger policing".
Challenges to the concept and existence of "stronger policing" in India also come from the social demographics and norms. The role of the Police has been historically and socially claimed to be a man's role. This is a result of the patriarchal mindset that attempts to confine women away from arenas of power. According to home ministry data, which has also been reported by news portals like News18, only 10.30 per cent of India's Police forces are constituted by the female sex. With Bihar at the top with 25.30 per cent female police participation and many states like West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and so on, below 10 per cent, India's female police representation is a dismal state of affairs. This critically impairs the prospects of "stronger policing", by putting females at the risk of getting manhandled by male police officials and by putting the law enforcement at a weaker ground in legally handling female criminals.
My argument throughout this piece has been in favour of "stronger policing." "Stronger policing" throughout this article has been depicted as a concept signifying efficiency of the law enforcement agents, specifically the police force. In the author's view, stronger policing must be something that ensures the prime purpose of having policing in the first place, that is, ensuring access to the protection and rights granted to the members of society by the legal authority. The author acknowledges that the phrase stronger policing can be understood and interpreted to represent the negative aspects of policing by some, but for the scope of this article, all negative fallouts have been treated as "lack of stronger policing." This lack creates an urgent need for Indian policymakers to embrace the ideals of stronger policing. A few small steps that can lead to this feat involve improving the gender balance in the police force across India to create a non-patriarchal law enforcement front in India. Proper training, provision of better equipment, and compulsory accountability mechanisms like body cameras need to be put in place to ensure "stronger policing".
Institution of unbiased recruitment procedures, merit-based promotion and reward systems that incentivise obedience to law not only among masses but the police force itself are critical to achieving "strong policing". Unlike the lack of strong policing that relies on the weakening of civil rights, true "stronger policing" would require enhancement and upholding of civil liberties, and that is the kind of stronger policing India needs.