THE hope that, with the achievement of Independence, India will be better served by its police and bureaucracy is yet to be fully realised. The image of both in the public eye continues to be unflattering.

Far from earning people's respect and being sensitive to their feelings and expectations in a spirit of public service, they are widely perceived as arrogant and callous.

On any given day, the English and language media carry any number of heart-rending accounts of sufferings caused by the cruel behaviour of the various echelons of administration. Corruption compounds the harassment and humiliation that people think is their lot whenever they have to have dealings with either police or bureaucracy.

Of the two, the greater responsibility lies with the police to go out of their way to win the friendship and trust of the people. This is because they are entrusted with powers and duties that are intimately connected with the safety, security and well-being of the people as a whole in matters of law and order and crime control.

Since there is greater scope for abuses of authority and violation of human rights in the way they discharge their functions, it becomes vitally important not to allow extraneous pulls and pressures and play of money to poison recruitment at entry levels.

If, (as is sometimes alleged), members of the force are compelled to pay astronomical amounts for securing selection and appointment, it is but natural that they would seek to make it up by demanding bribes and even resorting to robbery.

It goes without saying that the training imparted to police personnel should be such as to inculcate in them a strong commitment to accountability, propriety, human rights and ethical code of conduct.

More than all, senior officers should themselves be exemplars of all the qualities and values they expect of their subordinates. Being quick to punish misconduct is one way of restoring people's confidence and refurbishing the image.

An acid test is the action higher officials take on the recent incident in Chennai in which a 70-year old father died of mental torture due to the police allegedly keeping him in the dark about the whereabouts of his son whom they had picked up for a trivial reason in the wee hours of the morning, disregarding an old ruling of the Supreme Court against such excesses.

B. S. R.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 21, 2005)
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