The shortage of manpower dogging the Police Department can be discussed in two parts — low police-population ratio and vacancies.
The police population ratio is defined as the number of police personnel for a population of one lakh. In Karnataka, as on January 1, 2020, it was 158.23 & 125.95, considering the sanctioned strength and actual strength, respectively. The UN-approved standard is 250 policemen per lakh of the population. That gives an idea as to how much Karnataka is lagging behind.
No scientific assessment
The malady is that there has been no effort to scientifically assess manpower requirements through parameters such as area, population, crime rate, communal, Naxal and insurgency issues and myriad other factors. As a fallout, the strength of a police station is determined in an arbitrary and random fashion.
The problem of shortage is compounded when newer laws are enacted and entrusted to the police for enforcement. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) is a case in point. This legislation has increased the workload of the police manifold since scores of cases under POCSO are being registered, and rightly so. There are many new legislations and amendments to existing laws which have resulted in an increase in work load without a corresponding sanction of additional personnel.
Police are often called upon to discharge duties which are not strictly theirs. Enforcement of Covid lockdowns and bandobust during examinations come under this category. Most of the police duties cannot be quantified. Interrogation of a criminal may conclude in two hours in one particular case but may last 20 hours in another. Can someone guess the number of policemen and the man hours spent investigating the sensational and complicated Shraddha Walker murder case in Delhi?
A 2014 study by the Bureau of Police Research & Development estimated that 3,37,500 policemen should be added to the civil police strength of 6,75,115 in India.
Another 2014 manpower requirements study of Bengaluru city police conducted by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, of which this author was a part, after an elaborate process mapping, estimated that Rajagopalnagar police station required a strength of 457 as against 90, while the one in Banaswadi required 540 as against 87. Such is the gulf between existing numbers and what is required.
A basic eight-hour duty for a policeman remains a pipe dream. They are forced to work without a weekly off. On festivals, far from being able to celebrate them with their families, they are on bandobust duties. They are denied long leave and are often recalled to duty from leave.
Vacancies not filled
Failure to fill up vacancies at a fast clip would remain a self-inflicted wound on the part of the government. As on January 1, 2023, there were 2,858 vacancies of civil police constables, which is 8.1% of their strength. Vacancies in Armed police were 3783 (27.68 %), and those in Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) 3135 (38.95%). The vacancies of civil Police Sub Inspectors were a whopping 824 (22.9%), Reserve Sub-Inspectors (RSI) 161 (32.39%) and KSRP Special RSIs 117 (32.4%).
Best practices such as a realistic forecast of vacancies should be adhered to. The police top brass is unable to adopt and implement a fixed annual calendar for recruitment, hampered as they are by meagre resources. Irrational economy orders of the Finance Department to fill up vacancies hardly help.
As per a conservative estimate, the recruitment cycle, from the time of calling for applications to the issue of appointment orders, lasts about 9-10 months. So recruitment to different cadres, as mentioned above, has to be carried out simultaneously and in parallel.
The need of the hour is to strengthen the recruitment branch by posting 4-5 Inspectors General of Police in charge of recruiting different cadres, working under the supervision of an Additional Director General/Director General of Police with adequate personnel. Else, recruitment will be unable to keep pace with vacancies.
In the recent Budget speech of the Chief Minister, a sanction of 2,000 additional police personnel to Bengaluru City was announced. How long it would take to fill up these posts is anybody’s guess. The sickening regularity with which recruitment scams occur acts as the proverbial greasy pole and sets the clock back. Constant upgradation of technology is the way forward to improve speed and efficiency, apart from making recruitment fail proof.
(The author is former Director General & Inspector General of Police, Karnataka)