Police Force sans Diversity: Poor rep of SCs, STs, Women, OBCs, Muslims Invisibilized

The representation of Muslims not analysed because of absence of NCRB data; the condition of women is the worst, especially in officer-level posts

Indian Police

A study by Common Cause- Centre for the study of developing societies (CSDS), Lokneeti has again revealed that marginalised communities such the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward castes (OBCs) and women are under-represented in the country’s police forces. Tragically, the organisation could not even look at the presence of the Muslim minorities because of the deliberate concealment of this data by the government. Not just Muslims, Christians, the other small but distinct religious minority has also been victim of a targeted bias from the system. In 2008, in both Kandhamal and Karnataka evidences of these attitudes were seen.
The idea behind the present study titled ‘Status of Policing in India Report 2019’, was to “offer policy-oriented insights into the conditions in which Indian police works.” Apart from other aspects, the report delves into sensitivities and service conditions of police personnel, their resources and infrastructure, patterns of their routine contact with common people and state of policing apparatus on the country.
The report titled, Status of Policing in India Report 2019 –Policy Adequacy and Working Conditions may be read here.
On the issue of diversity, the report highlights that while SCs are under-represented in 19 out of 21 state police forces studied in proportion to their share of reserved postings, STs and OBCs are inadequately represented in 16 and 11 states, respectively.
The representation of women amongst these is the “worst” with only 7.3 percent women police personnel at the national level in 2016. Moreover, none of the states have been able to meet the required benchmark of 33 percent while filling their posts, as per the report. The highest representation has been in Tamil Nadu at 12.9 percent in 2016.
When it comes to SCs, their representation in the state police force ranges from a worrying 40.2 percent (of the reserved sanctioned strength) in Uttar Pradesh (UP) to 101.8 percent in Punjab. SCs are underrepresented across North Indian states such as UP, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, being some of the worst performing states.
On similar lines, the ST representation across states ranges from 3.6 percent in Haryana to 152.5 percent in Uttarakhand. While the OBC representation is the poorest in West Bengal with 22.6 percent and best in Telangana with 145.3 percent.
The report observes that while overall 13.4 per cent of the total police personnel are officers (assistant sub-inspector to deputy superintendent of police), only 11.5 per cent, 11.6 per cent, 11.1 per cent and 10.1 per cent of the SCs, STs, OBCs and women are of the officer rank.
The data for SCs, STs and OBCs is only available only till the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP). Therefore, the percentage of officers among women in police and the overall police force has also been taken as the proportion of ASI to DySP to enable comparison across categories, the report highlighted. Except for five of the selected states namely Assam, MP, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, the proportion of women officers is consistently lower than the overall proportion of officers in all state, the report noted.
More than one-third of the states studied have disproportionately lower number of officers across all four categories. For example, in Delhi the overall number of officers is 20.6 per cent whereas only four per cent of the OBCs are officers. Similarly, in West Bengal, nearly 13 per cent of the STs and OBCs were of the officer rank while the overall figures stood at 23.8 per cent.
From the report, it becomes clear that maintaining diversity is not on the states’ agenda. The police forces are not only marred by high vacancies in the sanctioned posts, but also a lack of promotion or growth even if one gets recruited.
There is no data on representation of Muslims who are not covered under any reservation, as the data was discontinued by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) after 2013.
The report says, “Aside from the moral and productivity-based arguments in favour of diversity, it is also a legal mandate for police forces in the country.” The Constitution makes provisions for reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in public service recruitments, including police, at both the State and the Central levels. Further, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued advisories to the State governments to increase the representation of women to at least 33 percent of the total police strength in the States. It is against these benchmarks of State-specific reservation quotas and the MHA advisory that the study measures the diversity within the police forces of different States.
In 2009, the Union Home Ministry set 33% as the benchmark target for women’s representation in the police. Apart from the Union Territories, only nine states adopted 33% reservation, five states 30%, Bihar 38% and five states below 30%. Nine states are yet to set targets.
In 2013, the Union Government recommended each police station to have at least three women Sub-Inspectors and 10 women police Constables to ensure women help desks are staffed at all times.
In 2015, the Union proposed creating Investigative Units for Crimes Against Women (IUCAW) at police stations in crime-prone districts across states. These units are to have 15 specialised investigators dealing specifically with crimes against women. At least one-third of the investigative staff are required to be women.
Studies in the past have highlighted how diversity ensures more acceptability in communities and makes problem solving easier.
Ronal Weitzer, a US based researcher and author of the book, Race and Policing in America wrote, “Importantly, such diversity can help to build trust and confidence in the police: the more a police department reflects the composition of the local population, the higher the department’s reputation among residents, which can provide a foundation to build further trust, coupled with other needed reforms.”
Pavani Nagaraja Bhat from the Police Reforms Program of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) highlights the grave problem of under-representation of women in the police forces in an essay, “As of 1 January 2017, the strength of women police in India was 7.28% of the total police.[1]This low representation of women is despite state governments setting reservation targets for women in the police ranging from 4% to 38%. Of the 7.28%, 0.85% belong to supervisory ranks, 9.76% to investigative ranks and 89.37% to the constabulary. These numbers are reflective of the exclusion of women in policing — especially at investigative and leadership levels. This inordinately affects the quality of policing. Yet, police recruitment continues to be irregular and scanty.”
United Nations Women collected data across 39 countries which showed that the presence of women police correlates positively with reporting of sexual assault, confirming that recruiting women is an important component of a gender-responsive justice system.
Several studies show the value of women in policing, not just in handling violence against women but other inherent aspects of policing. This is due to the experiences and realities of women that are different from those of men. A study from 2010 observed: “twenty years of exhaustive research demonstrates that women police officers utilise a style of policing that relies less on physical force, and more on communication skills that defuse potentially violent situations. Women police officers are therefore much less likely to be involved in occurrences of police brutality, and are also much more likely to effectively respond to police calls regarding violence against women. Despite having a poor record in gender based crimes, India still lags far behind in the representation of women in police forces.
The study does not include the inclusion of Muslims, India’s most hounded minority today. According to a report compiled by The Economist “No serious official effort has been made to assess the lot of India’s Muslims since the publication in 2006 of a study ordered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Called the Sachar report, it broadly showed Muslims to be stuck at the bottom of almost every economic or social heap. Though heavily urban, Muslims had a particularly low share of public (or any formal) jobs, school and university places, and seats in politics. They earned less than other groups, were more excluded from banks and other finance, spent fewer years in school and had lower literacy rates. Pitifully few entered the army or the police force.”
Sabrangindia and Communalism Combat  before that has been assiduously analysing and campaigning around the issue of both representation of Indian Muslims in the police force and administration and also the attitudes of men in uniform vis a vis India’s largest minority.
An introduction to the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission Report into the Bombay 1992-1993 brute anti-minority pogrom published an introduction by journalist, educationist and activist, Teesta Setalvad. She has researched the various judicial commission reports into anti-minority violence. This section. Anti-Minority Bias in the Police Force may be read here. Ex-IPS officer, KS Subramanian’s essay ‘Babri Masjid 1992 – Gujarat 2002 – Kashmir 2016: How the Sangh Parivar has wrecked India’s secular social fabric by sustained anti-minority violence’ may be read here.  
In February 1995, in the cover story of Communalism Combat (www.sabrang.com) Vibhuti Narain Rai gave an interview that turned the searchlight within, on the Indian Police Force. Setalvad had met him at the National PoliceAcademy where I had been asked to become part of a training given my work in the post Babri-Masjid demolition Bombay violence. In this explosive interview he had argued, cogently and with statistics about the deep-rooted bias within the Indian police. “No riot can continue for more than 24 hours unless the state wants it to continue,” he had said in an interview, that, after it appeared in the February 1995 issue of Communalism Combat was reproduced by 35 Indian publications in different languages. This seminal interview may be read here.
This poor representation of various sections of India’s marginalised, make it almost impossible for the social issues and crimes most plaguing the country today, to be taken seriously by the police. In fact, one witnesses that in many instances the police collude with the majoritarian community, namely Upper caste class Hindu male to perpetuate even more violence on those who are already persecuted.
Though some progressive judgments such as the one in which the SC upholds Karnataka law on Reservations in Promotions for Govt. employees provide a glimmer of hope, the implementation on the ground remains questionable.

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