Wise move towards police accountability

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Wise move towards police accountability

At a time when the police is looked upon with suspicion, Astitv, an initiative on safety of women and children by Uttar Pradesh police, has an important message

Other than crime, terrorism, naxalism, drug and human trafficking, and illegal migration, the Indian police have to also fight a severe battle of perception. Despite their herculean contribution in internal security and law and order, the police is viewed with suspicion. This may have its roots in a complex interplay of social, cultural and legacy issues. However, for a country as diverse and complex as India, which is laced with myriad of problems, it would only be naive to underestimate the role of the police. Like many other institutions, the police too has its weaknesses. But unlike others, people are a bit harsh in their judgement (or lack of it) of the police — call it a glaring perception deficit. No wonder, globally, there is a silent recognition of this deficit.  And efforts are underway at reforms, which, in the process, undertake perception correction as well.

India is no different. There is a growing recognition among the police forces in the country to pursue and follow what the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) says, “Police is people’s business,” and, therefore, there is a critical need to be aligned to the needs, and aspiration of the people and the Indian police have been responding to this. Reform, respond and realign with the people seem to be the Indian police’s indigenous response to this need. Expanding the prism a bit, we will find innumerable experiments aimed at reforms to connect with the people. Be it the rise in number of police forces taking on to social media, senior officers driving news ideas, or numerous young Indian Police Service officers carrying out remarkable experiments — the change is palpable. 

It is in this backdrop that a wonderful initiative, A Stakeholders’ Initiative Against Trafficking & Violence (Astitv) by the Uttar Pradesh police and the Indian Police Foundation IPF held last week acquires significance. This one-day consultation conference on safety of women and children brought together a large number of stakeholders from media, academia, civil society groups, police and agencies working in this space. Legendary IPS officer and Chairman of IPF, Prakash Singh, who has spearheaded the campaign for police reforms for decades, spelt out the significance of this consultation process — one which shall help in bringing about diverse perspectives. While expressing his concerns over rise in crime against women and children, he reiterated that police reforms needed to be holistic rather than piecemeal.

President of IPF and illustrious police officer, N Ramachandran, said that such consultations — to be held across 22 States — would form the basis of a policy advisory to the Ministry of Home Affairs, State Governments, State police organisations and Ministry of Women & Child Development. This nation-wide stakeholders consultation, which started in February this year, is proposed to be concluded by March 2018. Seen in conjunction with various other innovative and enduring interventions by police agencies across the country, this initiative reiterates the commitment of the police to be at the steering wheel of a change whose time has come. Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police, Sulkhan Singh  emphasised on the need to make sensitisation on women and children as part of our education. He also laid emphasis on the need to have more social discourse — physical one-to-one — and not confining our deliberations only in the realm of digital and social media.

Aditya Mishra, Additional Director-General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, and Organising Committee Secretary, reiterated that no society can lead without protecting women’s rights, their freedom and dignity. “There is a compelling need — and who better than police to take this initiative — to drive awareness among the people about the fact that safety and security of women should be our primary concern. The conference is an initiative by IPF and Uttar Pradesh police to develop and social and moral consent among people and society for the safety of women and children.”

The recommendations of this consultation were presented to Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Dinesh Sharma. Complimenting the police for having kickstarted this unique initiative, Sharma said his Government would do all it can to ensure safety, security and dignity of women and children. Astitv is unique because it puts police in the driver’s seat of a social reform. The message from Lucknow is loud and clear — the police leadership is out there to be the change agents, address gaps and initiative reforms which so far have been the preserve of others. They are also keen to realign in new innovative ways, and live the dictum of police is people’s business.

(The writer is a strategic communications professional)

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