Policing in Meghalaya
Policing is a state subject and there are significant variation across states. While bigger states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal’s police forces are all extremely understaffed with less than 100 police staff for 100,000 population, the only states with police forces that meet the global standards are those in the insurgency-affected states in the North-East and Punjab. In Meghalaya the total sanctioned strength of Meghalaya Police is 12,911 personnel, with an actual strength of 10,956, thereby leaving a gap of 1955 unfilled posts. The police-to population ratio in Meghalaya is 310 meaning there is one police personnel for every 310 citizens. The United Nations recommends a police-population ratio of 222.
In the last financial year an amount of Rs 80 crore was allocated in the state budget for strengthening police infrastructure. It is difficult to know how and where this money has been allocated and what infrastructure has been strengthened. In most states of the country the police suffer from being under-funded and overburdened. This means that both core police activities (enforcing daily law and order) and more long-term criminal investigations are compromised. This does not appear to be the case with Meghalaya. So, what is the impediment to good and responsive policing in Meghalaya? Why are conviction rates so low? Without a social accountability platform it is near impossible to hold the police to account for its lapses and abysmal performance. It is also a fact that the police in this country and in Meghalaya in particular have been used as tools by the political executive and police too have learnt to believe they are accountable to their political masters than to the public.
Indeed, lack of accountability within the police force is a burning issue. Repeated Police and Administrative Reforms Commissions have proposed the need to prevent undue political influence on the police but to no avail. The obvious solution to this menace is to limit the political executive’s control over the police – a point underscored by various committees and the Supreme Court in their recommendations for police reforms over the years. These have remained in the realm of recommendations only.
About two decades ago some public-spirited DGPs had proposed citizen-centric measures and tried to build a police-public relations platform. This is the best way to deal with man-power shortage. Citizens could actually assist police in providing key information (intelligence) but this is possible only when there is mutual respect between citizens and police. Such is perhaps not the case today. Police today seem unable to arrest criminals and the fault entirely theirs, ranging from non-performance to corruption at all levels and high-handedness which remains unchecked.