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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The scandal that is the Indian police

The most basic public good of all, which should be the first priority of the government, is law and order. If you think of the principal-agent relationship between citizens and State, citizens would want to tie down the State to first focus on law and order, and deliver results on law and order, before embarking on mission creep. One of the unhappy consequences of India's socialist adventure was a breakdown of this principal-agent relationship, and a loss of focus on this core function. See a recent column by Avinash Persaud in Financial Express.

Today, Human Rights Watch has released a top quality and incredibly depressing report on India's police. (Via Nandkumar Saravade). We need to reorient government -- as in financial resources and top management time -- towards the police and judiciary.

Also see Bibek Debroy in Indian Express, and my blog post on the Bombay attacks.


  1. Anshul Chaturvedi's blog post on on the Times of India site ( on this topic also seems to be generating a fair bit of discussion.

    It seems everyone, but the politicians and the bureaucracy, understand what needs to be done urgently.

  2. Taxing you to protect them
    By: Vinod Kumar Menon
    Date: 2008-12-11

    The highly-trained Special Protection Unit, along with hundreds of local cops, are busy guarding the relatives of the famous and others you may never have heard of

    While the ill-equipped and poorly-trained policemen were battling the terrorists a fortnight ago, more than 400 well-trained cops from the SPU were deployed to protect the likes of those who haven't done anything for Mumbai. They include Dheeraj, Riteish and Amit sons of former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, Nitesh and Nilesh sons of Narayan Rane and Aditya, Tejas and Urvashi the Thackeray children. This is apart from the hundreds of local cops who are on VIP duty.

    The only reason why these inconsequential people are so well guarded is that they have famous relatives. And we, the tax-paying Mumbaikars, foot the massive bill for their security.

    Who gets what

    The Mumbai police's Special Protection Unit (SPU) provides security under various categories Z+, Z, Y and X to politicians and leading personalities (see box). A senior IPS officer explained that apart from the protected person, even his family members are highly vulnerable to risk and any harm to them may result in a law and order situation.

    A special review committee comprising DCPs, additional CP (protection), joint commissioner of police (law and order) and commissioner of police assesses the threat perception to an individual or a VIP/VVIP. In case of individuals, the police commissioner decides the security cover.

    For a VVIP, the police commissioner sends the review committee report to the State Intelligence Department and the Home department for action.

    But finally, it is the Home department under the additional chief secretary (home), which finally approves a particular category of security for the VIP or VVIP.

    Special training

    All policemen attached to the SPU have to undergo special training for three months in Pune, wherein, apart from being trained in unarmed combat operations, they are taught how to use all sorts of weapons. Target practice for them is on moveable targets.

    Most of the policemen attached to SPU use the highly sophisticated Glock pistols. In early 2004, the city police had placed orders for around 300 Glock pistols, each costing more than Rs 1 lakh. Around 160 were set aside for the SPU, explained a police officer from the unit.

  3. Few top names under various security covers

    Z plus category
    Bulletproof vehicle, 2 escort police vehicles, 3 sub inspectors, 6 armed (carbine) constables and 4-16 armed guards from local arms unit 24x7
    * Bal Thackeray (Sena chief)
    * Sharad Pawar (NCP chief)
    * Chhagan Bhujbal (deputy CM)
    * Vilasrao Deshmukh (former CM)
    * Narayan Rane (former revenue minister)
    * S C Jamir (governor)
    * Ujjwal Nikam (senior public prosecutor)

    Z category
    Escort vehicle, two sub inspectors, 6 armed constables and 4-12 armed guards 24x7
    * Gopinath Munde (BJP leader)
    * Uddhav Thackeray (Sena leader)
    * Kripa Shankar Singh (MRPC chief)
    * Ramdas Kadam (Opposition leader)
    * Shatrughan Sinha (actor and MP)
    * Sunil Tatkare (state minister)
    * Sidharam Mhetre (state minister)
    * Dilip Kumar (actor)

    Y category
    1 sub inspector and two armed (carbine) police constables
    * R R Patil (former deputy CM)
    * Raja Thakre (senior counsel)
    * Rajendra Singh Shekhawat (son of President Pratibha Patil)
    * Vasant Davkhare (deputy chairman, MLC)
    * M N Singh (ex-police commissioner)
    * Vijay Darda (newspaper baron and MP)

    X category
    Two armed police constables (rotation of 12 hrs)
    * Aditya and Tejas (Uddhav's son)
    * Sameer Bhujbal (Chhagan Bhujbal's nephew)
    * Pankaj Bhujbal (Chhagan Bhujbal's son)
    * Dagdu Sakpal (Sena leader)
    * Sachin Ahir (NCP MLA)
    * Rashmi Thackeray (Uddhav's wife)
    * Smita Thackeray (Jaidev's former wife)
    * Nilima Rane (Narayan Rane's wife)
    * Dheeraj, Amit and Riteish Deshmukh (Vilasrao Deshmukh's sons)
    * Urvashi Thackeray (Raj Thackeray's daughter)

    Special allowance for SPU

    An SPU officer gets one-and-a-half times the salary he got as a regular policeman. The SPU staff is also entitled to a Rs 90 daily allowance, which includes Rs 60 for travelling only if the VIP is located at a distance of over 8 km from the protection head office and Rs 30 for refreshment. If on VVIP duty, the escort vehicles are allotted unlimited petrol/diesel.

    Taxing you to protect them

  4. Ajay another exhaustive blog post of yours on the topic.
    Public goods of law and order
    Would have been interesting to hear from Nandkumar himself on this topic from his vantage point as a tech savvy Top Cop.

  5. I was just reading the first page of the HRW report on India's police and was reminded of what a friend who had passed UPSC and given IPS told me. During the time at the academy he met two IPS officers who were discussing their score. On further discussion he learnt that score referred to the number of people they had killed in jails. These guys were posted in some naxalite area and their theory was that if they did not kill their prisoners in jail, on release the prisoners would kill them.

    My friend was shaken and changed to IRS/Customs. On his training he
    was sent to Indira Gandhi International Airport. On the first day he was surprised to see a bundle of currency notes in his desk draw. On asking about this he was told that everyone gets this and you have to take this.

    This friend then quit. And to think that I wanted to be an IPS officer in younger days!

  6. I agree with the remarks of Avinash D Persaud as to primary education system in India -"Administrators and teachers’ unions are at the centre—not children and parents. Which is why you have the ridiculous situation of poor parents scratching and scrambling to send their kids to private school." And the same remark will be applicable for higher education system in India when foreign universities would set up their shops in India and domestic universitites would lag behind them qualitatively.

  7. If you want more depressing news on the state of the ‘number one’ public good – law and order

    Not much has been achieved in bringing reforms to basic policing. According to the Home Minister, “Our best achievements have been in the reiteration of our determination to fight terror”.

    How does one tackle issues when they involve the states? Is a sort of Jawahar Lal Nehru police renewal programme needed to encourage the states?


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