Mr G K Pillai, Former Home Secretary
About the Report
What came out in today’s report is a reflection of what the police have been doing for the last few decades. This is exactly the way they have been behaving in the past, whether in the pandemic or in normal circumstances. The training for the police has always been a low priority. Right from the constabulary to higher ranks, the training has been poor and it is reflected in police performance.
In states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and so on, the police constabulary as well as the Sub Inspector (SI), the station house officer etc. are far more educated. They are all graduates, postgraduates and so on. You
will find that the way they react to a situation is quite different from somebody in UP and Bihar. I would like to highlight that the police started getting favourable reactions from the media for the first time during the pandemic.
Favourable reactions from the media are actually a self-fulfilling prophecy, which made the police aware of what the public expects from them. Therefore, the Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP), Superintendents of Police (SP) and station house officers, etc., started to actually do what the media was reporting. By the time the second wave broke
out, the police were completely willing to help out the public whenever they faced difficulties. The report mentions the media being very positive towards the police. I think the media being so positive was actually good for the police. The police are not only one of the most vilified forces, but are also overworked and put under tremendous pressure, especially the lower constabulary. They have to do so much of non-policing work, which was especially visible during the pandemic. People must also realise that since the notifications were put under the Disaster Management Act, the provisions of penalties, etc., also came under the Act, which is stricter than the IPC and CrPC.
So, a positive takeaway from the pandemic is that if you treat the police better, they do respond. We have seen the same in many of our Tier I cities. The way Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) in Tier I cities interacted with the station house officers, and gave them respect, was an eye opener for many police personnel. They realised that they have friends in the RWAs who look up to the police to help solve many of their problems.
Standard Operating Procedures for the Police
I would also like to point out that the pandemic is not the last crisis the police are going to face. From a cybersecurity infrastructure attack, natural calamity to water crisis (resulting from climate change), the police are going to get more involved. Therefore, not only do they need standard operating procedures (SOPs), but also different SOPs based on locations. Whether it is a Tier I city or a Tier II city
in a rural area, SOPs need to be devised. Having worked as a District Collector, I have witnessed that normally when there is a national disaster, a number of agencies get involved. However, during the pandemic, only the police were present in the field, apart from a few other departments like health. Earlier, the revenue department of the Government of India and the states were always deputed in the field. They have always been in the forefront of any disaster management response, but I didn’t see them in the field during the pandemic.
I think an over dependence on the police to resolve all the issues also created certain problems. As many of the issues were not within the purview of the police, they did not know how to react. Therefore, the tough police response of using the lathi to solve the issue for the time being was deployed.