Excerpts from Interview with Home Secretary GK Pillai, published in Business Standard on 14.2.2010:
1. What is the situation today? If a policeman is recruited on merit, he is good at his job. But if he pays money to get recruited, he spends the rest of his professional life looking for ways to get back his ‘investment’. So, recruitment has to be fair, and it has to be transparent.
2. Every political party thinks it owns the police and can use it to get people to vote for it. There are four police training schools in Jammu and Kashmir, but training there is virtually nil. Bihar has no training school at all. As a result, a policeman gets into the force and is thrown into the deep end. He learns on the job how things are done. He learns how not to file first information reports (FIRs) and how to write FIRs so that he doesn’t have to exert himself too much. Take a simple thing like cyber crime: Even a deputy superintendent of police might not know how to use a computer, let alone how to solve cyber crime – in his 35-year career, there is only one spell of training. How can he track new developments in this area?
3. Let me give you an example of shortages. In an area as sensitive to left wing insurgency as Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), there is only one police station, in Antagarh. Until a year ago, its sanctioned strength was 11. At a given time, six-seven policemen used to be present there. They were given no arms because there was a danger that the Naxalites would snatch their arms. The Naxalites were, of course, happy about this as overpowering the policemen would have taken them 40-60 minutes. Now, the strength has been increased to 30. We’ve deployed the Border Security Force there as well.
4. Transfers are governed by the Police Establishment Board. In UP, for instance, the average tenure of a superintendent of police (SP) is two months. They land in the district not knowing what it is all about. Before they can find their feet, they are moved out. Subversion is the easiest thing.
5. I can say without hesitation that in this matter, AK Antony, to whom I was a special assistant when he was the chief minister, was exemplary in his conduct. He refused to interfere in appointment of policemen. But if anything went wrong, the SP was held responsible. On the other hand, if the SP is beholden to a particular MLA for his appointment, he has to become a servant to that MLA. This happens all along the line.
6. West Bengal is a classic case. When the Lalgarh operation (against Naxalites) was on, we posted the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) there, but the force was not familiar with local operations and language. So, we got the police station reinforced by policemen from Kolkata. One weekend, we found the police station was deserted. So, we made some enquiries. We were told that the policemen had left for Kolkata — they belonged to the CPI(M) union and observed a five-day week.
7. In West Bengal, if you have to file an FIR, the police will direct you to the CPI(M) area committee office. The first thing you will be asked is: Are you a member of the party. If you’re not, the chap there will say: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you’. If you are, you will be given a chit and asked to go back to the police station, where your FIR will be registered.
So, West Bengal has no law and order problem because the party has solved them all.