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Restore the Confidence

There is evidence, or perhaps an illusion, of sudden and great activity on the internal security front, with an apparent shift in emphasis to long-neglected issues of 'hinterland security', the restoration of the integrity of the police station, and the status and role of the 'beat cop', issues that have been raised in the latest meeting of the Prime Minister with State Chief Ministers on September 5, 2006. It is useful to note that the Prime Minister's speech on this occasion, in combination with another crucial speech he made at the same forum on April 15, 2005, constitute the most comprehensive political statement on counter-terrorism and internal security articulated by a political leader in India. The challenge, however, is to translate this vision into policy, structures and practices - and we remain, regrettably, far from such an outcome.

There is, of course, some evidence of movement in certain spheres. A new Police Act, long overdue, has now been drafted. Funding no longer remains a bottleneck for police and security forces' modernisation - though the utilisation of funds is riddled with inefficiencies and leakages. Coordination between the Centre and State Governments shows signs of improvement, though points of friction persist. The general awareness among the political classes and Central bureaucrats regarding the threat and dimensions of terrorism in the country appears to be rising, slowly but consistently. While a confusion of perspectives persists, early signs of some emerging coherence, at least of intent if not policy, are becoming visible.

Nevertheless, the long-promised 'synergy' between various security forces, and between the States and with the Centre, remains a chimera, even as systems of command and control of counter-terrorism forces remain inchoate. It is useful to notice, in this context, that, in areas of multi-Force operations involving the Army, the 'unified command' model remains dominant. This structure, in practice, is patently violative of the constitutional scheme of the supremacy of civilian authority in all matters, including internal security and counter-terrorism.

The unified command has traditionally meant the supremacy of the Army and the subordination or marginalisation of State police forces and para-militaries, and has not been conducive to better operational control in theatres of multi-force operations. It has had only limited successes in bringing an end to terrorism or insurgency anywhere. Nevertheless, this remains the preferred model of command and control wherever the Army is deployed, and it is time for a radical review, and the adoption of a more effective model of coordination and cooperative command.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has now been designated the lead agency for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations across the country, and continues to be deployed in all major theatres of violence, including Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East, where the unified command structure is applied. Even in States where the Army is not present, as in Maoist affected areas, problems of inter-force coordination, as of inter-State coordination persist. These have been repeatedly underlined by the political leaderships both of the affected States and the Centre, but little headway has been made in securing the necessary 'synergies'. The CRPF is still to secure the wherewithal, the mandate, and the institutional transformations necessary to meet the demands of its new role.

The problem is an approach that is, at best, piecemeal and accretionist, seeking the arbitrary augmentation of specific capacities - principally manpower, weapons and technologies - from time to time, in response to particular emergencies, and without reference to a coherent gameplan. The lacunae in this approach are manifested, for instance, in the patterns of 'modernisation' of police and paramilitary forces. 'Modernisation' is, in fact, a misnomer for what is happening, and this can at best be described as 'technology enhancement'. The technologies that are being passed out to the forces in the name of modernisation are often 30 to 40 years old, and even in the sphere of emerging technologies such as communications, the acquired models are often on the verge of obsolescence by the time they are made available.

Considering the sheer pace of contemporary technological transformation, it is necessary to set up a special committee for continuous technological evaluation and acquisition. Technologies today are shackling rather than enabling the police, and a large proportion of the funds are completely wasted. It would be useful for the Planning Commission or some other body to analyse the manner in which the funds for upgradation are being misutilised, diverted or wasted, and to impose a greater measure of accountability on the prevailing system.

Modernisation, moreover, is not simply a matter of buying better weapons and technologies. The modernisation of systems and minds has entirely escaped the scope of current efforts. Often and in certain areas, modernisation may demand a discarding or diminishing lethality of weapon systems, rather than their continuous enhancement. More significantly, the manpower profiles, management systems, strategies, methods and protocols for security forces, their responses and administration, need to be extracted from the primitive constraints of inherited colonial systems, before we can shape effective counter-terrorism forces and responses.

It should be obvious, however, that not all change is necessarily good. The recently drafted reforms to the Police Act contain much that is, at least, quixotic and vastly distanced from the realities of the ground, such as, for instance, the proposal to create 'Special Security Zones' for areas acutely afflicted by terrorism, organised crime and a break down of law and order. The area-wise pattern of organisation of such 'special zones' is absolutely impractical. Areas of conflict shift constantly, and to imagine terrorism and insurgency as a static challenge to law and order is to confound reality. It is the nature of insurgency and terrorism, and not the areas of their manifestation, that must engage our attention.

After one of the many assassination attempts against him, Charles de Gaulle is said to have remarked that the people who were trying to kill him were as stupid as the people who were trying to protect him. With some variation, the statement applies to the enemies of the Indian state, and the systems that exist for its protection. The challenge of reforms is to take the stupidity, the irrationality, the inefficiency and the waste out of security and policing.

(Published in The Pioneer, September 16, 2006)





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