Excerpts from the chapter “Police: Arrested development” by Akhilesh Patil, Common Cause; Radhika Jha, Common Cause; Devika Prasad, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative; and Devyani Srivastava, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, from the study “India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons & Legal Aid” (2019), published by Tata Trusts:
***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 makes 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 2012 to 2016 constabulary vacancies increased in ten of the twenty-five 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 profile 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; five 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.
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