Fixing Mumbai: A force for good

We don’t need strength in numbers. For an effective police machinery, we need to upgrade existing systems and re-visit archaic laws, besides giving a thought to basic facilities for an overstretched force.

Updated - November 17, 2021 06:18 am IST

Published - June 12, 2016 08:07 am IST - Mumbai

The quality of the police personnel is more important than quantity.

The quality of the police personnel is more important than quantity.

The 55,000-strong Mumbai police force is still among the country’s best, but keeping a vigil over a metropolis projected to be one of the world’s mega cities by 2030 and a soft target for terrorism has its challenges.

Quality matters, not numbers

The police needs to be a lean machine, and we need to use technology as a force multiplier. Population will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and police numbers can never match them. Besides, the police force is not a revenue-generating organisation, and hence governments are never keen to increase its numerical strength.

The quality of the police personnel is more important than quantity. One constable equipped with knowledge and training is equal to 10 policemen.

Eight-hourly shifts

Only policemen have to work for 12 hours in a day without overtime allowance and no weekly holiday. Somehow this has to change. We should bring about a eight-hourly shift. But with the man power at the present level, it would be impossible to implement an eight-hourly shift.

Catch them young, let them grow

The core levels of recruitment are for Constables, Sub Inspectors and Deputy Superintendents. However, Constables, Assistant Sub Inspectors and Sub Inspectors are unable to grow beyond two promotions during their service. In London, every police commissioner has worked as a constable. We need to adopt such a system, where a constable is able to rise through the ranks to become a Deputy Commissioner. Building a human pyramid where people at the bottom reach the middle level, if not the top, is a good man management policy to follow.

Also, the entry-level eligibility is an SSC qualification. We need to raise it to graduate level. Our focus is currently on the 25-to-33-year age group. But by age 33, the recruits have done all kinds of odd jobs, and then we expect them to be apostles of peace. So, we need young graduates between 21 to 23 years of age who can be trained. If they have the opportunity to be promoted to the Deputy Commissioner-level during their service, it will bring in a lot of aspirational people. Graduates should be given a special salary.

Down to the basics: Ensure education, housing and health

Taking care of a policeman’s welfare is an important factor in making police more accountable, and reduce factors like corruption, but there is no police union or organisation that fights for police welfare and rights.

Importantly, when education, salary, housing and health are taken care of, society has the moral right to say, ‘You cannot indulge in corruption’.

Schools in every district

Policemen have transferable jobs, and often faces the paucity of schools where their children can get good, high quality education to pursue a successful career.

I had taken personal interest in constructing three schools in Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Thane during my postings there. As Thane police commissioner, I initiated the Thane Police School, and I am pleased to see its progress. Professionally managed by the Goenka & Associates Educational Trust, the school can accommodate 3,000 students, of which 50 per cent are policemen’s children. The school guaranteed admission to children of policemen posted to Thane, and ensured that they get the same quality of education that non-police children get with discounted fees.

Thane Police School can become a model for the government to build such schools. Out of 89 students who appeared for the SSC examination, 56 secured a dictinction, 23 a first class and 10 a second class, with a 100 per cent result. What was more satisfactory was that Sakshi Chavan, a policeman’s child, scored 92 per cent, as much as Shreya Pandit from the general category.

Such schools should be built in every district, they need to be private and the society should pay for the education of the police children.

Homes for all

An assured house is also an important part of police welfare. There is a severe scarcity of housing in a city like Mumbai. Policemen often live in cramped houses on rent, and in dilapidated buildings. The government should offer them modern, 560 sq feet houses, but more importantly, vest their ownership with police personnel. The government provides a house rent allowance, which could be cut from their salary to recover the cost of the house in the 35-year service span.

As Thane police commissioner, I build three residential towers for policemen on government land opposite my office, and the amenities are as good as any private housing complex in the city.

Health checks

A policeman works an average of 12 hours every day, and work-related stress and lifestyle diseases affect a large part of the force. During my tenure in Thane, I had built a state-of-the-art hospital and entered into a tie-up with the super-specialty Wockhardt Hospital. I also started gymnasiums, training centres and two cafes for the police. Apart from providing health services during service, it is equally important to provide them to retired policemen. There is no health cover for policemen after retirement, which is when they face major health concerns.

Free them of non-core responsibilities

A policeman is the face of the government on the street, and he is burdened with multiple responsibilities apart from his core job of law enforcement and crime detection. For example, hundreds of policemen escort undertrials from jails to courts daily, only to bring them back after getting a fresh date from the court. Enormous resources are wasted in the process. Video conferencing facility can be installed in jails, and accused can be produced only for remand. This can also avoid violent clashes between gangsters or attacks on accused in court premises.

Similarly, armed protection given to VVIPs and builders should be outsourced to private security agencies.

Spruce up the laws

Of the over 6,000 laws, many are archaic and need to be scrapped. Despite anti-prostitution laws, a Kamathipura-like locality flourishes. Similarly, half-hearted prohibition laws need to be scrapped. Whether it’s Wardha or Gujarat, truckloads of liquor comes in from other parts of the country, making the exercise futile.

Further, there is no effective anti-terrorism law, and the police is forced to use the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, which is principally for tackling organised crime. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act is not used widely because it does not allow confessions to be recorded before a police officer as evidence.

Therefore, in the Malegaon or the Mumbai train blasts or even the 26/11 terror attacks, MCOCA has been used. We need fresh anti-terror laws with stringent provisions for tackling terror groups.

Stay up to speed

The penetration of the Internet is increasing rapidly, and in future, cyber-crimes will dominate. Therefore, new policemen need to have the wherewithal to deal with changing times. They need to have the scientific bent of mind to deal with this, and adopt investigative methods that use forensic science. For example, in a case like the Hema Upadhyay murder, if the investigation team and a forensic team reach the scene of crime together, the forensic team could collect samples of blood, hair, sputum, saliva etc on the spot, and assist in the investigation. There won’t be any need to wait for blood sample results. It will also ensure the evidence is not diluted, there is no falsification.

As Mumbai police commissioner, I had distributed forensic and scientific investigation kits, but I’m not sure the practice has continued.

Upgrade weapons

Modern weapons are essential for anti-terrorism operations, but it’s important to upgrade them every few years. The bullet-proof jacket worn by Anti Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare when he set out to search for the Pakistani gunman was of poor quality. In 2009, as Mumbai police commissioner, I purchased bullet-proof jackets, but the Kevlar body armour’s life cannot be longer than five years. In 2016, they will not be effective, and need to be replaced. Similarly, the Marksman and other anti-terror vehicles have a life span, and should be replaced with the latest advanced systems to be effective.

(As told to Satish Nandgaonkar)

For the complete list of stories in the Fixing Mumbai series, > click here
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