Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Gurgaon Riots

Nitin correctly suggests that these horrific riots should be a trigger for broad labor reform.

Our concern, however, is with the conduct of the police. After much reflection, we believe the police has much to answer for. There's no excuse whatsoever for police lapses in professionalism, even in circumstances of extreme provocation (as they existed here). Society gives police the right to wield guns & batons; in exchange, we expect at least a minimum standard of professional conduct. Police losing their cool hardly meets this expectation.

There's, thus, a sound basis here for legislative challenges to the governing party in Haryana.

But, beyond all this lies a greater question. Why are police in India frequently so unprofessional and brutal in their tactics?

The answer, regretfully, lies with we, the people. We've rarely made good policing an issue in our elections.

In early 2004, this blogger had a chance to discuss manifesto issues with a leading parliamentarian assigned the task by his party. We noted that more Indians are victims of violence outside Kashmir everyday than are victims of terrorism there. Yet, India spends a ton more defending Kashmir than defending Indians elsewhere in the country.

This is not to say we disfavor the Kashmir investment. As our readers know, we have a very hardline position on that subject. But, we are also interested in what goes on elsewhere in India. Here, good people are terrified of criminals and, even worse, terrified of the police. This is absurd.

Now, this state of affairs is a natural consequence of our failure to invest in the police. Our police are deprived of resources, technology, training, moral support, political independence, and social respect. Is it any wonder the police are as brutal as they are?

Therefore, we gamely argued, law-and-order should be made a campaign issue with substantial new investments in upgrading our police infrastructure being the core proposal. Needless to say, we were ignored. As Gurgaon has abundantly made clear, India needs to reverse this famine if we are to avert future Gurgaons.

4 comments:

Ashish Hanwadikar said...

Police in India are employed and managed at the state-level. In US, by contrast Police are employed by the city and county administrations. This is a very important distinction. Police under local control will be more responsive to people.

Ashish

pennathur said...

Thanks PR for your kind words re my not so kind ones about Akbar Ahmed.

Re policing in India I remember a recent announcement by the Home Ministry that it was not going to appoint any more commissions and that it was going to start implementing recommendations!

But the Gurgaon violence is most definitely surprising but not new. About 10 years ago when Devi Lal's goons laid siege to India Today's plant there was a running battle between the management and the unions with the police deliberately staying out. Union violence has been rare in India for some time now (I have some personal memories of threats not violence though in the worker's paradise about 10 years ago) I wonderr if some entity has backed inserted agent provacateurs this time. Not long ago a very modern political party in India talked about expanding its base outside its traditional area of influence. Wonder if this is the start.

Sadly while there has been plenty of coveraage this time helping to bring down the temperature - there has been no reliable investigation of the causes. Years ago it was exactly the other way round.

phucker said...

There's a simple reason why labour unrest is greater - which party is giving 'outside' support to the Congress hmmmm.... it is bedcause these people are tasting power that the unions are acting up. Plain and simple.

doubtinggaurav said...

Ashish,

I disgaree with you.
If employed under local control, police will be more prone to manipulation by local criminals
(or as they say in my place "rangdar")
Frankly speaking , I think it is a vicious circle, which can be broken only by political movement.
As regards to Gurgaon incident, I think that miltant unions have to be controlled or it will ruin our economic growth.
I will concur with PR.

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