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Police poorly representative, inadequately staffed, inaccessible to people

Police ranking
By Akhilesh Patil, Radhika Jha, Devika Prasad, Devyani Srivastava*
Efficient, responsive, and accountable policing is critical to achieving an enabling environment that assures safety, security and a setting within which everyone can enjoy their fundamental rights. Each state in India has its own autonomous police department made up of personnel from two distinct cadres—the state police service, and at higher levels, officers drawn from the Indian Police Service. The state police has two arms: civil police and armed police. This report considers only the former (which includes the district armed reserve) that is primarily tasked with the core police work of law enforcement, protection of life and property, and crime registration and investigation, among myriad other tasks.
Each state fixes what its sanctioned human resources should be, based on several factors such as the available budget, areas to be covered, The bulk of the constabulary is involved in manning police stations and responsible for patrolling, surveillance, guard duties, and maintaining law and order. At the heart of policing lies the capacity of its human resource. Yet, India—the second most populous nation in the world—at 151 police persons for 100,000 population has one of the lowest police to population ratios in the world. Illustratively, its BRICS partners Russia and South Africa with far smaller populations have two to three times India’s ratio. The national average of policemen on the ground is itself 42 persons short of the sanctioned strength which averages 193 for 100,000 population.
The constabulary make up 85 per cent of the police and officers 15 per cent. In several states the sanctioned strength falls below the national average (151 for 100,000 population): e.g. Bihar (108), Madhya Pradesh (147), Rajasthan (142). The actual strength per 100,000 population on the ground dips down even lower, as in Madhya Pradesh (125), Gujarat (120), Rajasthan (122) and Uttar Pradesh (90). Bihar has the lowest (75). Where the constabulary is concerned, as of January 2017, thirty-one states and Union Territories (UTs) fell short of the required number.
Amongst all the states, Kerala, Nagaland and Tamil Nadu were the only ones that had reached the sanctioned strength. Among the Union Territories (UTs), only Delhi and Andaman and Nicobar Islands had. Of the eighteen large and mid-sized states, six states, namely Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had a shortfall of at least 25 per cent. Uttar Pradesh, with a shortfall of 53 per cent, was working at near half its sanctioned capacity. The seven small states did relatively better, with shortfalls in Sikkim, Goa and Himachal Pradesh at less than 7 per cent. Mizoram, however, was short by 20 per cent. Among the UTs, Dadra and Nagar Haveli had the lowest constabulary shortfall of just 2 per cent.
At the officer level—from Assistant Sub-Inspector to Director General of Police—shortfalls are even more critical because this group includes investigating officers; heads of police stations, sub-divisions and districts. These officers supervise police work, make decisions on recruitment, transfers and postings, and plan for policing. All states and UTs registered various degrees of shortfall except Sikkim, a small state, which exceeded its sanctioned strength.
As of January 2017, Lakshadweep’s vacancies stood at 66 per cent; Uttar Pradesh’s at just below 63 per cent, Andaman and Nicobar had 56 per cent vacancy; and Jharkhand 44 per cent. Six other states and UTs were functioning with 30 per cent or more officer vacancy levels. Of the remaining states and UTs, eight states had vacancy levels between 20 per cent and 30 per cent and eleven had shortfalls between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. Only four states and two UTs (Chandigarh and Delhi) had vacancies below 10 per cent.
Across the nation, efforts to remedy the situation present an uneven picture. From 2011 to 2017 constabulary vacancies increased in ten of the twenty-fi ve ranked states. In fourteen other states, vacancies at the officer level saw an increase. In Kerala, shortfalls among constables reduced but increased at the officer level. In West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh it was the opposite. These kinds of trends mean that the ratio between officers and constabulary continuously fluctuates rather than being stable. Important recommendations aimed at stronger supervision of the rank and file—which suggest a ratio of one officer per four constables— are unlikely to be systematically met any time soon.
Police cover for the population can be calculated by looking at how many people’s safety and security each police officer is responsible for. The national average is 1 police person for 663 people. Figures for more populous states are naturally much higher. For instance, in our large and midsized states cluster, Bihar’s ratio was 1 police person for 1,663 people, followed by West Bengal, where it was 1 for every 1,209. Amongst the smaller states, the perceived responsibility of a single officer was highest in Himachal Pradesh, at a ratio of a single police person for 679 persons.
A larger consequence of baseline human resource gaps can be seen in the everyday realities endured by police and the public. Not only is the individual overstretched and overstressed, police organizations are unable to properly specialize, supervise themselves, address the special needs of vulnerable communities, or be equipped to carry out effective crime prevention and investigation. Continuing shortage at these high levels perpetuates the status quo wherein the police can only provide a minimal reactive function, but cannot hope to improve response; enduring problems of non-registration of crimes will only persist as the police find ways to screen out crime, rather than invite increased registration. Essentially, policing is reduced to a response-and-custody function, and that too at far from optimum levels.
The absence of adequate personnel impacts the police’s diversity profi le as well. Diversity within police departments is both an organizational value to be attained and a practical priority when policing a society as varied as India with its state-level specificities. Diversity is actualized through reservations for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and, in some states, also for women and religious minorities. Quotas for reserved categories vary across states, in proportion to their populations, and are applied in direct recruitment at entry levels.
In 2009, the Government of India adopted a target of 33 per cent reservation for women. Bihar is the lone state that has adopted 38 per cent; nine states have 33 per cent; fi ve states 30 per cent; and, five states less than 30 per cent. Nine states have no reservation. Karnataka is the only state to have very nearly filled officer-level reservations in all caste categories. Nationally, a majority of states are unable to meet their declared caste quotas. Only six states and UTs—Daman and Diu, Meghalaya, Goa, Manipur, Gujarat and Kerala—had managed to meet or exceed their SC quota. Similarly, only Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Telangana had managed to reach or exceed their ST quotas and only Meghalaya, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Assam and Karnataka had met their declared OBC quotas.
Even states and UTs with an SC population of over 15 per cent had gaps in filling quotas for police officers. Of the nineteen states and UTs that reserved 15 per cent or more for SCs among police officers, none met the reservation criteria and showed an average gap of 35 per cent. Among them were thirteen large-sized and mid-sized states, with the gap ranging from 4 per cent (Karnataka) to 68 per cent (Uttar Pradesh). Similarly, none of the fourteen states and UTs that had a reservation for STs of 15 per cent or more among their police officers could meet their quotas.
How long will it take for women’s share to reach 33%?
The average gap was 44 per cent, and ranged from 5 per cent (Sikkim) to 100 per cent (Punjab; the state has no notified Scheduled Tribe according to Census 2011, but BPRD shows 25 per cent reservation). For OBCs, twenty-two states and UTs had a reservation for OBCs of above 15 per cent among their police officers. Only four states filled this quota (Karnataka, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana). The average gap in this set was 55 per cent. Overall, ten states and three UTs had a gap of 35 per cent or more. Women, who now have a mandatory presence in police stations and have exclusive functions when gender-based crimes are reported, are woefully in short supply.
There are a total of just over 7 per cent women in the police. Only four states and four UTs have more than 10 per cent women in their police forces. Nationally, Chandigarh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli had the highest share of women in their overall police force at 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Among the ranked states, Tamil Nadu with 13 per cent,11 Himachal Pradesh with 12 per cent and Maharashtra with 12 per cent lead, while eight other states—Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Tripura with 5 per cent or less, bring up the rear. Telangana, the newest state in the country, with just 2 per cent, stands right at the tail end.
In thirty states and UTs, amongst officers, the share of women is less than 10 per cent. Goa, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Daman and Diu, Mizoram, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli are the only states and UTs to have a percentage share of women officers higher than this. The big fissure between policy and practical realities should prompt redoubled efforts at closing the gender gap. Over a five-year period (2012–2016), most states have indeed tried to do this. Bihar, in particular, had improved women’s representation from 2 per cent to 9 per cent.
However, three ranked states—Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Kerala—actually posted a decline in the overall percentage of women. Maharashtra’s share went from 15 per cent to 12 per cent. At the officer level, twenty-six states and UTs have improved representation in the police force. Of the remaining eight states (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have not been ‘trended’ due to paucity of data), four—Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala—are from the large and medium-sized state ranked cluster.
Expenditure per capita signals the priority states give to policing. Most large and mid-sized states spent between 3 and 5 per cent of their total budget on policing. Certain states,not ranked in this study, spent as much as 10 per cent. Between 2011–2012 and 2015–2016, there were only ten states where the increase in police expenditure exceeded the growth in total state expenditure. Odisha had the worst differential, of 6.12 percentage points; while its total expenditure during this five-year period increased by an average of 17.7 per cent, its police expenditure increased by 11.6 per cent.
Over the years, while the per capita expenditure on policing may have gone down in one state or up in another, as forces have expanded, the absolute amounts spent on policing have risen steadily. As of January 2017 the average all-India per capita spend on policing was Rs 820. Within the states ranked in this report none of the large and midsized states spent more than roughly Rs 1,660 per capita. Some of the largest states spent much less than smaller ones. Illustratively, Rs 598 and Rs 591 per capita were spent by Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh respectively, and Rs 498 per capita in Bihar, which was the lowest in this cluster.
By contrast, on average the seven small states spent Rs 2,178. Arunachal Pradesh at Rs 4,868 per capita spent the highest of any state big or small. Delhi and Chandigarh, as the largest UTs, spent Rs 3,283 and Rs166 per capita respectively. In 1969–1970, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs introduced the Modernisation Scheme to assist state forces in meeting capital expenditures, like the construction of new buildings and availing technology and better equipment. Data for this scheme for 2016–2017 shows that only Nagaland could utilize 100 per cent of the grant. Everywhere else the utilization levels were low—nineteen of the twenty-two states for which data was available utilized below 60 per cent. Uttar Pradesh, for instance, which spent just Rs 591 per capita could utilize less than 25 per cent of its modernization grant. In most states police budgets have not increased at the same rate as state budgets.
In nineteen states for which data is available, the allocation to police trailed the increase in state budgets; the largest trail was seen in Odisha and Rajasthan (-6 percentage points) and Uttar Pradesh (-5 percentage points). Among the large and midsized states, there are only three where this has increased—Punjab (6 percentage points), Kerala (0.5 percentage points) and Maharashtra (0.08 percentage points). While it is certain that poor budgetary allocations leave police inadequately resourced and understaffed, publicly available data on police budgets is insufficient to conclude whether budgetary allocations are adequate, utilization effective or will, if increased, improve police performance.
While there is a great variation in the average expenditure by each state on the police, states like Nagaland, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir* see an exponentially higher expenditure. However, increased police spending does not necessarily translate into better service. States with higher rates of reported crime may have lower spending on the police, and vice versa. While not recommending an ‘ideal’ expenditure, police spending must be based on outcomes. An effi cient and effective police can be achieved through a continuous evaluative process surveying the needs of policing and aligning budgets accordingly.
At the heart of policing lies the police station. As the ground-level unit its physical availability is an essential measure of police capability: to be present, accessible and of service to the community. This report limits itself to gauging the availability of this public utility across geographies. There are 15,488 police stations in India. Of these, 9,932 serve the rural population and 5,036 the urban.
In 1981, the National Police Commission suggested the average area covered per rural police station should be 150 sq. km. This can serve as a guide; although almost four decades old, it is the only available benchmark. Terrain, population size, the incidence of crime and the availability of personnel all factor into deciding how many police stations a state has. For example, police stations in Rajasthan’s large and sparsely populated desert may be few and far between, but cannot justify leaving local populations impossibly far away from aid and assistance.
In measuring accessibility, this report takes account of the area an urban and a rural police station covers and the number of people it is expected to serve. The numbers of people one police station covers vary vastly from state to state. In the large and midsized states, for instance, one urban police station covers, on average, between about 33,000 people (Odisha) and 240,000 people (Gujarat). Similarly, a rural police station covers between 30,500 people (Telangana) and 233,000 (West Bengal).
In general, urban populations and areas are better serviced than rural areas. In twenty-two of the thirty-one states and UTs for which data was available, on average, a rural police station was servicing a greater population than an urban one. In terms of area coverage, the picture worsens: in all thirty states for which data was available, the average area covered by a rural police station was greater than its urban counterpart, significantly, in most cases. In relative terms, among the large and midsized states, the state that covered urban and rural populations the most evenly was Kerala.
At about 44,000 people per rural police station, it was ranked number eleven among all states and second among large- and mid-sized states. At the same time, each rural police station, on average, covered a smaller population than an urban population. Kerala was one among four large and mid-sized states doing so, and among them, it had the lowest rural population number. Even in terms of area covered, the differential between rural and urban police stations was minimal.
By contrast, there were large and mid-sized states that were extremely uneven in their coverage. For example, in West Bengal, a rural police station serviced nearly twice as many people and covered an area that was nearly sixteen times its urban equivalent. It is but natural that the smaller states and Union Territories generally have smaller jurisdictions and lower populations per police station whether urban or rural. Yet, even within these smaller states, there are significant differences. In Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura, urban populations are better served than rural populations. Similarly, in terms of average area coverage, rural police stations in Meghalaya (852 sq. km), Himachal Pradesh (791 sq. km) and Mizoram (759 sq. km) service areas larger than some of the largest states such as Madhya Pradesh (427 sq. km) and Maharashtra (352 sq. km).
In twenty-eight of the thirty-two states and UTs for which data was available, the state average of area covered per rural police station exceeded 150 sq. km (the benchmark given by the National Police Commission). In urban areas, in twenty-five of the thirty-three states and UTs for which data was available, the state average of area covered was below 20 sq. km. Among large and mid-sized states, in rural police station coverage, the best performing were Kerala (79 sq. km per rural police station), Bihar (125 sq. km) and Tamil Nadu (155 sq. km).
The worst among all states and UTs was Jammu and Kashmir (1,842 sq. km), followed by Meghalaya (852 sq. km), Himachal Pradesh (791 sq. km), Mizoram (759 sq. km) and Rajasthan (719 sq. km). Debates on policing and reforms have been ongoing since Independence. Numerous government-appointed commissions have submitted their recommendations, supplemented by the Supreme Court’s many exhortations that culminated in its 2006 directions in the Prakash Singh case.
Each has aspired to significantly improve policing. However, the data reveals that the police’s capacity is severely curtailed by its structural frailties. The police remains inadequately staffed, poorly representative and inaccessible to a majority of the population. True, quality performance, genuine accountability and public satisfaction cannot be guaranteed by merely repairing quantitative parameters. But early measures to address some of the deficits underpinning poor performance will go a long way in winning public trust.

*Akhilesh Patil and Radhika Jha are with Common Cause, Devika Prasad and Devyani Srivastava are with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. Source: India Justice Report

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