Arvind Verma's book, The Indian Police: A Critical Evaluation, is well timed. It's release coincided with a recent move by the Central Government which setup a narrowly conceived committee to re-draft the Police Act of 1861, still in force.

The misdeeds and oppression, characteristic of the inherited police structure in rural and urban India, came out sharply during the Emergency of 1975-77 and were duly documented in the Shah Commission report. A reform process was initiated in 1977 outlined in detail in the eight reports of the National Police Commission (1979-81) and in the report of the L P Singh Committee on the role of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). However, the Congress, which returned to power in 1980, rejected all these reports. In 1984, the anti-Sikh riots witnessed the participation of the police in the violence against the Sikhs.

Arvind Verma, The Indian Police: A Critical Evaluation (Regency Publications, New Delhi 2005) Pp. 287, Price Rs.750.

This was followed by its massive communalisation, leading up to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Bombay violence in 1992-3 and the Gujarat carnage in 2002, which witnessed the active participation and facilitation by the police in the mass violence against minority communities. The criminal justice system had collapsed almost completely in large parts of the country but for some positive actions taken by the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court of India, especially with regard to the horrendous Best Bakery Case in Gujarat. Governments led by both the major political formations in India have notably neglected action on the needed police reforms. The present government in New Delhi, however, made a symbolic gesture recently by setting up a narrowly conceived committee to re-draft the Police Act of 1861, still in force. This was a positive step, but it is well short of the comprehensive reforms that are called for.

Arvind Verma's book, The Indian Police: A Critical Evaluation brings a breath of fresh air to discussions on police reforms in the country. The author served as a member of the Indian police Service (IPS) for a period of about 12 years in Bihar from the late seventies. Unable to accept the 'abominable' conditions of work, the politicisation of the service and averse to the 'form of policing' in India, he left for academic pursuits abroad, while still a Superintendent of Police in his state. He is currently associate professor of criminal justice at the Indiana University in the US. The underlying thrust of his study is far-reaching reforms to address the persistent crisis of the Indian police system.

Verma's broad conclusion in the book is that working with grass roots NGOs, deployment of modern technology, replication of successful experiments abroad, and above all, recognition of the importance of 'research as a vehicle of change' are needed to modernize the Indian police. The emphasis on research as the core of policing needs to be especially noted as relevant research of the kind advocated in the book is conspicuous by its absence in India.

The book falls into three large parts. The first covers well trodden ground on the organizational history and model of colonial policing in India and argues that this 'police system is the frame that has to be broken to make the police organization relevant to Indian society today.' The second examines the managerial challenges of public order maintenance and the issues of crime, corruption, politicisation and training. The need to control 'situational discretion' by the construction of 'relevant data sets' and to eliminate the 'cultural indoctrination' that creates a gulf between the leadership and the subordinates in the police are underscored. Verma addresses the cultural roots of corruption and politicisation together with the problem of police accountability.

Arvind Verma on India Together

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