Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blueprint for Transformation

It's been over a week since terror struck the heart of the nation, hitting the financial capital of the country. Much has been said and written on this but concrete actions are yet to see the light of the day.

I have been giving this issue a lot of thought in the last few days and a little soul-searching leads me to conclude that most of us (including self) have woken up to this mainly since we have never seen urban warfare this close to our hearths and homes. Living under constant threat and increased vigil has become the norm of the day for all those in Jammu & Kashmir but never once has media and the press come together to discuss and debate this issue which has existed up north for over 15 years.

So what is the solution to this problem? Are we to live under constant high-alert and dread stepping out to popular hang-outs, hotels, hospitals, airports, railway-stations, markets, schools, offices? Is this sustainable? Is this feasible?

Let us take a look at Israel and its counter-terror activities. Emanuel Gross, a former Chief Judge with Israel Defence Force’s District Military Court outlines the following :
  1. Israel is a democratic country and thus they sought answers within the law, and created laws that would enable the military and the other security agencies to fight terrorism effectively;
  2. Terrorism necessitates the declaration of a state of emergency, and special laws for empowerment the security agencies could result in a clash between security needs and human rights; and a balance has to be struck between the two;
  3. Even in extraordinary times, the courts are left open for judicial review, which means that the executive brunch provides reasons for its acts, in real time.
  4. Security and intelligence agencies that specialised in anti-terrorist warfare.
Good intelligence, special anti-terror forces, and working within the law — this was their formula for combating terrorism.

As far as India is concerned, my blueprint for transformation is three-fold as follows :

  • ADMINISTRATIVE - Back to Basics :
Corruption today has seeped into our very roots of the way we work. Greasing of palms is the way we run our businesses, our political and social institutions and the defence forces. Almost every position in the government is up for auction. There is a price associated with every power center and the higher the post, the more the price. Now, we need to understand why are people gullible to bribe. Let's focus on the police - the upholders of law in our society - people who are supposed to be ready to defend and if necessary, give up their lives for complete strangers. And what are they paid for this sacrifice? - a pittance! They are at the mercy of politicians who treat them as if they own them. Poorly trained, under-paid, over-worked, demotivated, armed with just a 'lathi', he is supposed to face the various anti-social elements who are far advanced in their training, their equipment and their motivation to destroy. Police is a non-developmental state subject, and is, therefore, perennially short of funds. A large number of police stations are without buildings, vehicles, telephones, the Internet, etc, and short of stationery and vehicle fuel.

Reports of various committees highlighting police reforms have already been submitted - the Supreme Court Ruling, the Julio F Rebiro report, the Prakash Singh PIL , the Padhmanabiah Committee report and many more. What has happened to these recommendations? Are they still gathering dust while our police forces die everyday?

The need of the hour is urgent police reforms. They need to be equipped with proper training, given basic equipments like wireless, arms and ammunition and empowerment to be able to police the streets without being subject to any kinds of pressure from the politicians. Pride in their work will enable them to deliver and be the biggest motivator. Police force should no longer remain the lowest common denominator of what people aspire to be. They need to be made a professional force, well-paid, empowered and formidable to recon with.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE - Building Blocks :
After every blast, every act of terror, we read about how the central and state governments had prior information on these activities but they all decided to look the other way while innocent civilians suffered. There is an urgent need to act on every piece of intelligence, to have specialized and trained forces who will be able to separate the intelligence from the noise and then act on it ruthlessly to track and crack down.

Security and intelligence agencies that specialise in anti-terrorist warfare are needed to be deployed in every state, or atleast in the more sensitive and susceptible states, for a start. The speed of response must be immediate. The layouts of sensitive buildings like hospitals, hotels, large places of worship, those depicting our cultural heritage must be included in the course of the training of these specialized forces. The best of equipment, infrastructure , training and intelligence must be given to them. CCTV on busy intersections, scanners, body-searches must become mandatory and as people, we must realise we are living in uncertain times and co-operate.

And most importantly, the law and order machinery and the Intelligence Bureaus must work hand-in-hand to keep a constant exchange of information and partnership.

  • SENSITIZATION - Civilian Policing :
The police cannot be everywhere and in their absence, the civilians need to become the eyes and ears of the law. This includes Mohalla Committees, Neighbourhood Watches, Vigilante Patrols which ensure that peace, harmony and law and order are maintained in and around their areas.

In today's context, civilian policing must also include the media keeping pressure on implementation of all the reforms and corrective and preventive steps that hopefully the central and state governments will bring into force, soon.

If we still continue with our shameful silence, we will be giving out the message loud and clear to ourselves and the global community that a billion strong population is inept, incompetent and incapable of defending its people and everything it holds so close.


  1. nice post. Something along similar lines

  2. Hey is that Shaunak standing towards the right in the photo??

  3. @Prissy : Not sure, you may want to check with him :)

  4. Really like your take on the police forces