Time Ripe for Actionable Intelligence & More Coordinated Action

Gopal Krishna Pillai, Union Home Secretary, is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of 1972 cadre. A seasoned bureaucrat, he has earlier had a stint as a Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry. In this interview with Inclusion, he outlines the security challenges that the country faces, the technological upgradation that is needed of the police forces, and highlights the reforms that police and judicial systems need. Excerpts:

01 April, 2010 Defence, Opinion
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Gopal Krishna Pillai, Union Home Secretary, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of 1972 cadre

What are the security challenges that we are facing today and how different they from the past?

Gopal Krishna Pillai

We are facing multi-faceted security challenges today. There are security challenges from cross border terrorism, insurgency, particularly in North East India, and there is the Maoist movement, which is mainly a clash of ideologies, as the rebels are opposed to parliamentary democracy.

Fundamental to all this is our entire police system that has in a way got degraded; it needs to be revamped. From the time we started to where we are today, the entire system has changed. In today’s context, our police should be trained enough to deal with the modern age crimes like cyber crime, money laundering and organised crime. The perception that exists in the police force that a posting to tackle law and order is a “prized” one while those to training establishments and like are punishment postings also has to change.

Do you think human resource itself is the biggest challenge?

Yes, it is the biggest challenge; the fact is that our police forces are grossly undermanned. The police to population ratio should be at least 220 policemen for a population of 100,000. We are about 140 to 150 now and that varies from state to state: Delhi has 480 while Bihar has just 56. Being undermanned, one cannot really be effective. That is one of the reasons why we have not been able to comprehensively protect the districts that are prone to Maoist and Naxal movements.

So, this realisation has become more pronounced post 26/11?

Yes, I think it has become more pronounced. Police Reforms Commission has been saying this for last 25-30 years, but few state governments are willing to take action. Police reforms are a matter of urgency today. Since police is a state subject, it is important that they take action on this front. We can only offer incentives to states that undertake schemes like modernisation of police force, modernisation of prisons, and modernisation of fire forces.

But how are we gearing up at the Centre in terms of integrated command and control structure as also organisational responses?

From the Centre’s point of view, while we have a number of intelligence agencies, what is needed is to make the information gathered by them into an actionable intelligence. Today, we have the National Investigative Agency, which can take over investigation into any act of terrorism, without permission of the state where it took place. But, one must remember that we are a federal polity and this has its own problems. But I think when the Centre-State Commission, headed by Justice Madan Mohan Punchhi, submit its report, it will make some recommendations on the changing nature of intelligence security in the world and how we should go about it.

India is a big country, so it will take some time for suitable system to evolve. Today, we do not have an agency like the US’ FBI to tackle trans-state crimes. We are only now putting in place the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), which will be operational in the next two years. This will centralise all data, ensure greater access to information by all concerned and enable better policing. But, its a long haul and we need consistent government policy, one that does not change with individual ministers or individual officers.

Do you think that today there is somewhat more consistency in response and things are being taken rather seriously?

For many state governments, law and order is lower in their order of priority and it comes after issues like housing and employment. No one is eager to talk about law and order; it does not attract votes.

So to what extent is a chain of command and control possible?

Every state has a separate DGP of Police, home minister and chief minister; there is no integrated command at all. Inter-state coordination will come when CCTNS will be in place. If I find something come through the CCTNS and the culprit is in UP and I am in Kerala, I can at least ask my counterpart to take necessary action. Today, as far as policing goes, the centre has only two roles: guarding the country’s borders and assisting the states in cases of internal disturbances. Now, some people are saying that in certain situations, the centre must have the power to send forces to state even if they do not ask for them. But, this thinking is just evolving and I think the Commission on Centre-State Relations will give some recommendations pertaining to this.

Are we looking at some kind of civil society sensitisation?

This is essentially community policing, where the local community has an involvement in the local police station. We are looking at some models. It has been tried in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. But we are trying to push the model where members from a community partner with their police station and pro-actively engage with them. This will help generate the feeling that the police station is for them and when somebody comes to file a complaint, he has confidence in the policemen because members from his community are engaged with them.

In terms of kind of threats we face today, they have become technologically fairly sophisticated. So what will be the role of technology in our response to it and are we getting technology right?

All these are part of the system, getting better intelligence, getting staff trained in cyber crimes, training to make the interceptions, and providing training to monitor telephone calls. Such technological upgradation has become fairly critical today because more and more people are using the internet; they are using mobile phones. You need to be tech savvy in today’s times.

So are we doing any technological investments because all this calls for a lot of money?

Yes, it’s increasing, you can’t get everything you want at once because we have competing demands from so many other fields, you want money for water supply, housing, school, education, etc.

If you are the home secretary for next 10 years how would change things, what is your idea of The India Decade, the safer India?

Safer India is going to be possible only if you have trained and skilled manpower. Once you have this, 80 per cent of the problem is solved. So training and repeated training is very essential. While earlier a Class IV pass person could become a constable, today you may need a 10th standard or even a graduate to become a constable. But you cannot raise the bar too suddenly, given the ground level realities. We are a democracy, so there will be competing claims and responses.

Any other major response, apart from training and intelligence, which is going to make India safer?

Intelligence and coordination. Take away the jargon, the fundamental remains the same everywhere. We may have the CCTNS, NATGRID, multiagency centre, but we still need to coordinate the responses, you should know that this is your objective. The complexity is not just in implementation. Consider this, today committing a crime is low risk and high paying. This is because our judicial system fails to deliver on time. I have to make crime a high risk one. Today, one is willing to take the consequences of being prosecuted because one knows that it will take 20 years for any judgement to be delivered. That is the reality, we have to get judicial reforms in place as we need to put in place police reforms.

So, we hope holistic reform process will unfold in the next 10 years that is going to make India better and it is just not the policy?

Yes, and we need consistent and sustained policies. We need to build systems and institutions rather than going by individuals because then the whole system collapses if individuals change. We are highly individualistic but the system should have the strength to be able to say ‘no’ and not buckle under individuals.

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