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Agnipath-like plan for police, bureaucracy needed, says leading reform campaigner

“In the highest echelons of the country’s police services, you have officers who can’t walk and are physically unfit. They should be told to go home,” says Prakash Singh, crusader for police reforms and bureaucratic accountability. He, however, says the Agnipath plan for defence forces needs a review.

June 24, 2022 / 04:24 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

There is an immediate need for introducing an Agnipath-like scheme in state police and paramilitary organisations in the country, says Prakash Singh, one of India’s leading campaigners for police reforms and bureaucratic accountability.

“There is so much deadwood in the state police and paramilitary forces that a scheme like Agnipath is needed,’’ ]Singh, a former head of the BSF, who has also led the UP police and the Assam Police, told Moneycontrol.

“In the highest echelons of the country’s police services, you have officers who can’t walk and are physically unfit. They should be told to go home,” he said.

According to Singh, people with proven charges of corruption need to be fired, even though some action has been taken against such officers under the Modi regime.

Resignations from paramilitary forces

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Union Home Ministry data, available till 2021, shows that 15,904 personnel have resigned from paramilitary organisations, like the CRPF and the BSF, between 2011 and 2020.

While no specific study for ascertaining the reasons for such retirements or resignations has been conducted by the ministry so far, an analysis carried out by the forces themselves indicates that personal and family issues, health reasons and stagnant career opportunities are some of the main reasons.

“There must be a system under which the careers of officers from Class 1 services, like the IAS and the IPS, need to be reviewed after every 10 years or so. Such periodic reviews can help ascertain those who are fit and willing to work and not treat their jobs like zamindari (landlordship), where once a person qualifies an all-India exam, he or she knows that he or she cannot be touched for 35 years,” Singh said.

If that entails introducing changes in all-India recruitment and promotion rules, so be it, Singh, also a prolific author, said.

Who is Prakash Singh?

Prakash Singh is considered one of the key architects of police reforms in India. After superannuating from service in 1996, he filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court. The landmark verdict of the PIL came in 2006, in which the apex court has given specific directions to the central and state governments to carry out structural changes in the police with a view to insulating it from extraneous pressures and making it accountable to the people.

Singh’s efforts, however, have not fructified so far. State governments, after exhausting all avenues of seeking ‘review’ and dilution of the directives, finally proclaimed ‘compliance’ with them. What was this `compliance’?

A Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, in its report submitted in August 2010, expressed its ’utter dismay’ over the total indifference of the states to carry out reforms in police functioning.

Sixteen years later, there is very little compliance by any state or Union government, let alone ground-level implementation. A Commonwealth Human Rights initiative assessment made in September 2021, concluded that “checks and balances that the Supreme Court directives seek to instill to make policing more professional and accountable are being stymied by states in multiple ways”.

Agnipath needs a review

Singh, however, said that the Agnipath plan needs to be reviewed. “If you are going to remove 75 percent of the defence force after four years of service, there is a problem. Is the selection process so flawed? I believe the ratio of those going out needs to be reviewed,” he explained.

In his estimate, about 40 percent of the defence forces ought to be retained. “That would be a reasonable percentage of retention. I also wonder whether a training regime of four months, as envisaged under the Agnipath plan, is adequate for combat duties. The police constabulary in India is trained for nine months to ensure physical endurance, stamina building, basic commando course and weapons training,” Singh said.
Ranjit Bhushan is an independent journalist and former Nehru Fellow at Jamia Millia University. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has worked with Outlook, The Times of India, The Indian Express, the Press Trust of India, Associated Press, Financial Chronicle, and DNA.
first published: Jun 24, 2022 04:24 pm
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