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Hamstrung Bangalore police come under fire

By K.V. Subramanya

BANGALORE, JULY 28. The State Government came under scathing attack from the Opposition in the legislature for the spurt in murders in and around Bangalore, and the ``failure'' of the police in curbing crime.

Ironically, the bitterest critic of the police and the Government on this count was the Janata Dal (United) leader, Mr. P.G.R. Sindhia who, a few years ago when he was the Home Minister, defended the same police when Bangalore witnessed a similar spate of murders.

The Home Minister, Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge, sitting on the Opposition benches at that time, had criticised the government of the day and the law enforcing agency over the soaring crime rate. Now their roles have been reversed, but the same police set-up continues, so also the crimes.

While the State has seen three chief ministers and four home ministers in the past seven years, Bangalore's police set-up has remained almost the same. Many officers, including deputy commissioners of police, assistant commissioners of police and inspectors currently serving in Bangalore were here during the previous Janata Dal regime and even earlier. There has been no change at all at the lower rungs of the police set-up over the decades.

While attacking the police for their failures, the political leadership has apparently turned a Nelson's eye to the reasons that have contributed to the poor performance of the police. What has been ailing the Bangalore police for years is the shortage of staff, poor working conditions, lack of infrastructure, political interference in postings, and casteism. And it is the political leadership which has to set these things right.

On the other hand, the police cannot be pardoned for their lapses, corruption, nexus with criminals, and lack of accountability, which have soiled their image.

While Bangalore has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, the strength of the city's police force has almost remained stagnant. As many as 44 police stations have been understaffed for the past few years. As Mr. Kharge admitted in the Legislative Assembly recently, a large number of posts of constables and sub-inspectors is vacant.

The staff strength of the Bangalore City Police is very low when compared to that of other cities such as Delhi and Mumbai where the focus has always been on having more men rather than police stations. Contrary to this, new police stations are being opened in Bangalore, the latest being the Nandini Layout Police Station, and staff from other stations are sent on deputation to the new ones.

The general practice all over the world is to ensure the presence of policemen on the streets in order to deter anti-socials from committing crimes and to instill confidence in public. Can the Bangalore City Police with its limited staff ensure this?

The constabulary, which is the backbone of any police set-up has been neglected. Armed with a lathi and an age-old, heavy rifle, the hapless constables have to patrol the streets on foot even when it rains. It has been almost seven years since the constables were given raincoats. They have not been provided with basic equipment, such as wireless sets. On account of the shortage of staff, the constables are forced to work seven days a week, and for more than eight hours a day.

However, nothing has hit the functioning of the police as badly as political interference. There are hardly any legislators or MPs who have not interfered in the postings of police personnel, from constables to inspectors.

In the name of efficiency, many officers have been retained in Bangalore for more than 15 years. Some of them who came here as sub-inspectors have become ACPs, and are still serving in Bangalore, thanks to the political patronage they enjoy.

In some cases, officers who were doing a good job have been transferred, and even suspended, due to political constraints and pressures. The classic case was that of the ACP of the Vidhana Soudha Sub-Division, Mr. B.M. Uthaiah, who was suspended after a dalit youth died during a procession.

On the contrary, police officers who have been booked by the Lokayukta on charges of corruption, and those facing departmental inquiries, continue to occupy key posts because of their political clout.

There are also instances where politicians have interfered with crime investigations, and arrests. The most recent case was that of a minister in the present government urging the police to release the notorious gangster, Jederahalli Krishnappa.

Casteism is the other major bane of the Bangalore police. Successive governments have reportedly posted IPS officers to Bangalore, taking caste into consideration, in order to maintain the ``caste-balance''. The caste-balance formula has percolated even to the postings of ACPs and inspectors.

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