Haryana Police has regularly been in the news and for the wrong reasons. The police force is a large and strong force and has the capacity to control law and order in the state. They also happen to be a fairly well trained force and have shown quick response on several occasions.
However, the force has become heavily politicised and is increasingly viewed as one that operates to serve the interests of the ruling political party only. Unfortunately, the ruling party in the state has used the police as its personal force and has forced it to work in its interests and settle personal and political scores against its rivals, from time to time.
How did the police lose people's trust?
It is often seen that when a case is filed in any police station, the first thing the accused does is to contact his local political representative, who in turn mobilizes his party workers and lands up at the station to put pressure on the police and release the accused or at least dilute the sections under which the accused is held. In all this, the person who suffers the most is the victim, who in most cases is the common man. If the victim too has political connections, then it becomes a battle of who can wield more political influence or money power.
In many instances, the police is also influenced by caste or religious considerations and all these put together, results in miscarriage of justice, since the police is the first place a victim turns to for protection. A common man with no political connections or money power often is left to the mercy of a brutal police that is now known for its abuse of power.
There are reports on a daily basis involving either corruption, abuse of power or brutality of the force. Here are some cases, as reported in the media.
Abuse of Power
Probably the most high profile case of abuse of power by a senior official of the Haryana Police was the Ruchika Girhotra case. The then Inspector General of Police, SPS Rathore, was involved and subsequently prosecuted, in a molestation case of Ruchika, aged 14 at the time. Ruchika later committed suicide due to harassment she and her family faced. The incident brought shame and disrepute to Haryana Police.
In June 2012, a shelter for women and children in Rohtak that was funded by the state government and run by an NGO, was raided on complaint received by the female inmates, which included women and teenage girls. It turned out that the shelter in-charge, a woman herself, was running a racket of supplying the female inmates to senior officials and VIPs, in collusion with the certain elements within the Haryana Police.
In Oct 2013, two young men, of Ravi Dass Basti, Ambala, were arrested by three drunken policeman on alleged murder charge. They were illegally held, tied to chains and beaten up brutally. They were asked to break free and run, if they could and they did break free and run. One was killed when he was hit by an approaching train, while the other hid in the fields through the night. Later enquiry revealed it to be a case of false implication and the three policeman were arrested.
Corruption in the force
Very often the media reports of cases of wide spread corruption within the force. Recently, there was a major car robbery reported in South Delhi, that later turned out to be a case of insider conspiracy. However, one of the robbers was apprehended with part of the stolen cash by a Haryana Policeman in Gurgaon. This policeman promptly arrested the robber and then released him, against a bribe of Rs 7.5 lakh approx. that the robber was carrying! This was virtually a case of a thief stealing from another thief!
The list is endless. Such incidents haven't helped the reputation of the Haryana police that is now perceived by the common man as a corrupt force that abuses power and works only for politicians and money. The common man today feels completely defenseless with little hope for justice from the Haryana Police.
So why has a force that was once known to be fearless and upright, become like this? What has caused the values and standards to deteriorate to such an extent, that the very people that it is meant to protect, fear and distrust it the most?
The answer lies in the politicisation and misuse of the system by the political class. This along with greed and lack of moral standards within the leadership of the police force has resulted in Haryana police's loss of reputation. So is there hope of reform? Can the Haryana Police regain the people's trust and respect?
The answer has to come from all ranks of the force. Every constable, inspector and senior officer of the force has to ask himself or herself, as to what they would like their force to be. Would they like to wear a uniform of a force that holds its head high and has the trust and respect of the common man or would they like to be seen as a corrupt, inefficient and abusive force that commands no respect from any quarter of society?
The way forward
It is time for all political parties to understand that it is in the interest of the state to ensure that the police force remains neutral and fair in its dealing with people and law & order.
It is very important to implement police reforms on an urgent basis and this includes insulating the force from political interference or at least keep it to the minimum.
Police needs to receive special training on modern criminal investigation techniques and must be familiar with the latest in surveillance technology and intelligence gathering methods. They must be fully equipped with the latest weapons and accessories.
There are several social issues that are plaguing the state and these need to be understood and addressed sensitively. The police force needs to undergo special sensitisation programs on all these issues and in methods of dealing with people, especially in cases involving women and children. They need to have a friendly face to regain people's trust.
There is a need to induct more women into the force and post a larger number of women at the station level, to address cases relating to women and children.
The recruitment process has to be fair, transparent and free of favouritism. The force must ensure that there is a balance of representation from all communities in the force and the recruitment process must be aligned accordingly.
There is urgent need to address the misuse of the power to transfer police personnel on whimsical grounds, at the behest of the ruling political party. This process has to be streamlined under an independent committee that must be represented by senior personnel of the police, civil service, judiciary, civil society and the ruling political party. This will reduce cases of frequent transfers that the police have to endure.
Lastly, the state has to re-look at the working hours and facilities provided to the police personnel and their families. The police is overworked and the working hours have to be rationalised. In addition, facilities relating to housing, education, entertainment and allowances have to be re-looked and improved. It is unfair to expect a policeman to perform efficiently and with integrity, when he does not get a fair deal from the state.
It is my firm belief that our Haryana Police is an extremely capable force second to none in the country, if only it is offered the opportunity to function freely and is given the opportunity to implement reform. There is a new and dynamic Haryana which is emerging and it is time for the Haryana Police to introspect on how it wishes to evolve in Naya Haryana.