After nearly a decade, the State Budget for 2023-24 announced the sanction of 2,000 more posts for the Bengaluru City Police. Commissioner C. H. Pratap Reddy took to Twitter to thank Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Home Minister Araga Jnanedra. Terming the hike “a game-changing 11% raise”, he said this would mean “better women’s safety, traffic management, cybercrime investigations and public order in Namma Bengaluru”.
While officers across the board agree this is much needed and it would definitely improve the situation on the ground, multiple former city police commissioners and officers on the ground The Hindu spoke to felt this was “too little”, and unless expedited, the potential gains could even be nullified.
Bengaluru, riding on the software technology boom, saw rapid growth in the last two decades and is now estimated to have a population of 1.2 crores and a floating population of a few lakhs. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), in its Draft Revised Master Plan - 2031, now being reworked, estimates that the population will grow to 2.3 crore by 2030.
Number of police personnel
Bengaluru City Police has a strength of 12,000 personnel in the law and order section operating 110 police stations, and 5,300 in the traffic police section running 44 stations. While the ratio of police personnel to one lakh population for Bengaluru is not available, the ratio for the State is among the lowest in the mid-size and large States in the country, a fact observed by Raghavendra Auradkar Committee on Police Pay Parity.
As per a reply from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha in 2021, Karnataka had 158.23 police personnel per every lakh of population as per sanctioned strength, even as all States in South India except Andhra Pradesh had a higher ratio.
Presently, each police station in the city, which covers a population of over a lakh, has an average of 110 personnel. A majority of them have to be deployed for bandobast, tappal and court work. That leaves very few to do actual policing, including patrolling and criminal investigations, a police inspector told The Hindu, adding that despite a deployment of an average of 110, there are police stations run by fewer than 10 personnel.
Given the dire situation, 2,000 additional posts sanctioned now will definitely improve the situation. However, it won’t bring drastic changes, multiple officers said.
New police stations
Many of the additional posts now sanctioned will likely be absorbed by the slew of new police stations, divisions and sub-divisions carved out in the city over the last three years, which have been forced to make do with borrowed staff till now. The older stations, also suffering from a severe paucity of human resources, will likely get very few of the new posts sanctioned, a senior officer said.
Over the last three years, six new law and order police stations have been set up, apart from a new division for Whitefield. Six new traffic police stations and a new division for South are in the pipeline, even as eight new Cybercrime, Economic Offences and Narcotics (CEN) police stations have been established in the city.
“Given this situation, the 2,000 new posts now sanctioned seems like a catch-up the government is doing to the number of new police stations they have already opened. But Bengaluru City Police needs much more beyond catching up to serve the people better,” a senior official said.
Lag in recruitment
Since those recruited for the police department have to be trained for at least one year, the time lag between starting the recruitment process to personnel reporting at the police stations is usually two years, sometimes more.
The Police Sub Inspector (PSI) recruitment exam scam that hit the department in 2022, during the proposed recruitment of 545 PSIs — a process which started in 2021, led to the cancellation of the entire process. This has meant Karnataka Police hasn’t recruited a single PSI in two years, and there have been no signs of the recruitment starting again. This has essentially meant thousands of officers retiring every year without a replacement in the force, skewing the workload for the existing workforce further.
“Sanctioning additional 2,000 posts is definitely not enough. The city police need more. But as a first step, this is welcome. The State government must immediately start a mega police recruitment drive to fill all existing vacancies and recruit people for all the additional posts created. If they start the process today, it will take another two years for them to report to the stations, and by then, the city’s population would have grown further. But this is the least that needs to be done immediately,” a senior official said.
Another officer pointed out that police recruitment needs to be an annual affair to replace those who retire from service. The Police Recruitment Cell needs to be revamped to meet the challenge, and the government should ensure the recruitment process is not vitiated.
“The onus will always be on the station house officer or the person in charge of the force for assessment and deployment of personnel judiciously. Technology needs to be harnessed and judiciously used to harness already sparsely available human resources better,” a senior official said.