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'Improve image of constabulary; the pillar of police force'

September 16, 2011 15:51 IST

Addressing the annual conference of director generals of police, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Delhi are grim reminders of the grave challenges posed by terrorism to national security.

Here is the text of the prime minister's speech:

As you all know, this is the 150th year of the passing of the Police Act. We should therefore especially honour the valour and sacrifices of those brave police persons who have laid down their lives to protect their fellow citizens. We will commemorate this 150th anniversary year in a befitting manner to pay our solemn and grateful tribute to the great service our police forces have rendered to the nation.

I would like to congratulate those officers who have been awarded the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service today. This award is a recognition of their outstanding services to our country and our people under very difficult circumstances.

The security environment in the country continues to be uncertain. The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Delhi are grim reminders of the grave challenges posed by terrorism to our national security. Over the last one year, Left wing extremism has also claimed the lives of many innocent persons and police personnel.

The Home Minister has already briefed you on the large resources that have been deployed by the Government of India in dealing with the problem of Left Wing Extremism. There have been some successes on the ground. But if we seek a decisive change in the situation, then a huge collective and coordinated effort is required both by the Centre and the States acting in concert. The role of the DGPs in leading this effort is crucial and I urge that more focussed attention be given to this problem.

We are trying to give a sustained thrust to development processes in the Naxalite affected areas. I met recently with the collectors of 60 Naxal affected districts. What they told me shows that there is a ray of hope for the development of these areas provided we show flexibility and innovation in implementing our development agenda. I have asked the Minister of Rural Development and the Planning Commission to make the necessary changes in the rules of these schemes to address some of the concerns and problems expressed by the district officers. I am hopeful that with these changes and the setting up of Specialised India Reserve Battalions, that will assist directly in these development efforts, there will be some positive difference on the ground.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the summer has been peaceful and record numbers of tourists, yatris and pilgrims have visited the State. Voters turned out in large numbers to exercise their democratic franchise in the panchayat elections. The real challenge now will be to meet the high expectations of the people as peace is restored. Empowerment of local bodies will be one critical step in energising the development processes.

We have initiated a process of broad based consultations to find a way forward in Jammu and Kashmir. We need to give the processes of dialogue and democracy a chance to secure a just and honourable settlement that meets the aspirations of all sections of the people.

Despite these positive developments, there is no room for complacency on the security front in the State if Jammu and Kashmir. There are reports of cross-border camps for terrorists being reactivated, and of attempts to induct fresh batches of militants into the country. We need to ensure that such attempts are foiled through smooth and coordinated functioning of all security agencies working in the State.

In the North-East, there has been a gradual yet substantial improvement in the security situation. Our democratic polity has the capacity to respond to the legitimate aspirations of all communities, cultures and regions. There is space for all of us to live together in peace and with dignity. Insurgent groups are increasingly coming round to the view that the search for a political identity need not entail recourse to violence and can be more fruitfully pursued through peaceful dialogue. The climate for talks with different groups in Assam has improved. The situation in the Darjeeling Hills has shown improvement. Over the past few years we have learnt some lessons in dealing with our multiple security challenges.

Our human intelligence capabilities need to be improved. The grassroots information and intelligence collection systems that have traditionally been a part of policing have languished or fallen into disuse in some places. The role of a vigilant and effective beat constable can be vital in checking the activities of networks, which otherwise operate under the radar. Some reorientation in the functioning at these cutting edge levels is necessary and the role of community policing should also be emphasised.

Shortage of manpower is another problem and we are trying to address it on a war footing. At the meeting of the National Integration Council last week, the need for a well-trained and equipped force to deal with riots was underscored. The Rapid Action Force has been discharging such a function with distinction. I would like the Conference to consider ways and means of scaling up the availability of such trained personnel and formations in the state police forces.

Sometimes our security forces have to perforce serve in unfamiliar areas far away from their homes. They don't have adequate understanding of local sensitivities and sometimes of the language as well. These can be vital handicaps in earning the trust and confidence of local communities. I understand a number of steps have already been taken in this direction, but more needs to be done.

As the 26/11 tragedy showed, terrorists use the latest technologies for communication and real time information sharing. We have therefore to remain one step ahead of our adversaries. With this in mind, connectivity has been established between Subsidiary Multi Agency Centres and State Special Branches. I hope that the NATGRID would enable seamless retrieval and dissemination of data critical to the task of anticipating and pre-empting terrorist attacks.

Crowd control techniques in a democracy where people often vigorously vent their opinions and sometimes their frustrations, have to strike a fine balance between the requirement to maintain law and order and the imperative of using absolutely minimum, non-lethal force. The Jammu and Kashmir Police have improved their capabilities considerably in this regard. We need to keep looking at new methods and methodologies and technologies of handling demonstrations.

Another issue which also figured at the recent meeting of the National Integration Council was the perceived bias sometimes of the law enforcement and investigation agencies against the minorities. The existence of such a perception is inimical to effective policing, which must necessarily draw upon the confidence and cooperation of all sections of the population it serves. I would like you to consider ways and means to deal with the causes of such perceptions wherever they may exist.

The constabulary is the mainstay of our police forces, constituting about 87% of their total strength. Improving the image of the constabulary is therefore critical to building public trust in our police forces.

The job of a constable is arduous and hazardous. Currently, the constabulary is over-stretched and asked to perform multifarious duties. Many of them find it difficult to get suitable accommodation and are even forced to live in slum areas. All our police stations do not provide basic facilities for women constables. It is not realistic to expect high levels of efficiency unless proper attention is paid to the living and working conditions of our men and women in the police forces.

Police personnel must also be adequately trained to upgrade their professional skills and inculcate the right attitude towards the public. Promotions could be linked with training, as is done in the Army. I would urge the Conference to draw up a comprehensive roadmap for police training. Modules on white-collar crimes and cyber crimes will become increasingly important as these types of crimes become more salient.

Our country recently witnessed an outpouring of public anger against corruption. A life in the service of the people is a noble calling, particularly so for those charged with the responsibility of securing life and liberty of our citizens. People who enlist themselves for such a task must take pride in their ability to honestly discharge their duties.

These are difficult and challenging times for our security forces. Our social fabric continues to be targeted by organised terrorism, abetted by misguided zeal and false propaganda among the youth and the marginalised sections of society. We have to contend with left wing militancy, parochial and chauvinistic movements, and tensions caused by socio-economic imbalances and iniquities and alos by rapid urbanisation. Policing the metropolitan areas, the control of organised crime and the protection of women and the elderly require special attention.

While dealing firmly with these challenges, the police must function within the bounds of a democratic framework, in which human rights of our people are scrupulously respected and upheld. I am sure that if our forces are led ably and guided properly, they will find themselves more than equal to the tasks ahead, daunting though they are. With these words I once again express my great pleasure at being here on this auspicious occasion.