Governing India is an unbelievably tough challenge to any government, what to speak of a coalition. This is a critical time in our history when almost the whole world is watching us while hailing us as a successful democracy. The stakes for quality governance are very high.

One of the key areas of public administration that often invites world attention is the maintenance of internal security and peace. Apart from counterterrorism, the task includes crime prevention and safety for women and other weaker sections of society. A few violent incidents in quick succession are enough for tendentious elements both at home and abroad to label the whole country as unsafe for citizens and international visitors.

Violence in society has a negative impact on our national economy when our focus is on attracting larger foreign investment. The implications for tourism, a major foreign exchange earner, are also considerable.

The new government will have to respond quickly and imaginatively when criminal incidents take place.

Centre-State coordination

This is where Centre-State relations are of great importance. There are unavoidable political nuances to the relationship, particularly when the Centre and States are ruled by different parties. An urgency on the part of both to steer clear of politics should therefore be more crucial now.

What is required is a more careful monitoring of every major happening in the States so that there is objectivity and cooperation in the task of restoring order and sharing of expertise and other resources, when the occasion demands it. Talking of greater State autonomy is impolitic when dealing with dangerous law and order situations and when the Union government is more than willing to share its expertise and resources with States.

The Union Home Ministry (MHA) has a well oiled machinery that has stood the test of time. The ties between the States and the Centre are likely to strengthen. Enlightened leadership at both ends is the need of the hour. This alone will cement the relationship .

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) which reports to the MHA serves as a reliable link between the former and the State Police. This arrangement has worked fairly well till now. This highlights the need for a careful choice of officers to occupy important positions both in the Ministry and State Police and who will take objective decisions. Fortunately there is a continuity here from the previous regime that works to the advantage of the nation.

Terrorism is a major concern for most nations. We in India can be satisfied with the fact that since the 2008 attack on Mumbai by terrorists from across the border there has been no major occurrence. There is however no room for complacency. Infiltration of our machinery by inimical foreign agencies is always a source of concern. The arrest recently of an individual in the Bharuch District of Gujarat accused of passing on sensitive information on our Army to Pakistan intelligence agents may not be sensational. It however confirms constant attempts from across the border to breach our security.

Lethal lone wolf attacks at the most unlikely of places is the order of the day. Who ever imagined that two mosques in New Zealand (March 2019) and a Sydney church (April 2024) could be the targets of attack by individual terrorists. Experts believe such aggression on the part of a sole individual can never be foiled.

This highlights the need however for extreme sensitivity on the part of both spy agencies and citizenry to look for abnormal behaviour in public. This is a complicated task with a low success rate. The Central and State agencies will have to work in tandem to keep a constant eye on individuals displaying suspicious behaviour in public.

Resource sharing

Finally, an inconclusive debate is on with regard to sharing of the services of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers between the Centre and States. A recent official communication refers to a large number of vacancies in Central agencies in the posts reserved for IPS officers. This has been the situation for several years.

Many officers at the middle level are reluctant to move from the States to Central government. This has resulted in acute manpower shortage in several Central paramilitary forces.

There are two ways of handling this problem. IPS rules can be tweaked to make a tenure in the Centre mandatory. This requires considerable cooperation from the States which are reluctant to release IPS officers for Central deputation. The MHA will have to devise procedures to eliminate Centre-State conflicts on this issue.

The second way is to make a Central deputation more attractive. A substantial monetary compensation could make it attractive for IPS officers to go to the Centre. An accelerated promotion and an assurance of government housing wherever they are posted could also help.

A more flexible cadre allotment policy at the entry level is an option. At present many IPS officers are posted far from their home States making the IPS less attractive. An assurance of a home posting once in a while could be helpful. The problem needs to be solved quickly to promote an equitable sharing of talent at a time when there is a continual need to safeguard national security.

The writer is a former CBI Director