What the gang rape on the woman now battling for life in a Delhi hospital shows is the reality of policing in India, that it is becoming extinct in wider and wider swathes of India. The reason for this is that the Indian Police Service (IPS) has become far more interested in goodies for its members than in better policing. And this shows. Any commuter making the daily trip between Gurgaon and Noida will not fail to repeatedly see cars flashing by with red beacons, protuberant antennae and star-studded licence plates. These are the vehicles fortunate enough to ferry IPS officers as they go about their business throughout the day. Many who enter the police as a career soon see “service” as a means to improve the economic condition of themselves and their families — hopefully for generations to come — than to ensure that law and order gets maintained. And this is hardly surprising. The fact is that unless a police officer obliges his seniors and their political masters, he is likely to face problems in his career. The quickest promotions and the prize postings come to those whose spines are made of rubber. Such a result conveys a clear lesson to the entire IPS: either conform to a culture of adjustment to the demands of corrupt senior colleagues and politicians or suffer a troubled career. It is no surprise therefore that so many lose the sense of public interest and service, which impelled them to enter a police career, and adopt instead an opportunistic stance.
Should matters continue the way they have been for the past decade, a period when corruption has become the norm within the administration, and any sense of guilt has disappeared, India will become an unliveable place even for the 20% of the population who are from the middle classes. Even seven decades after the British left, the majority of the population live in conditions that most outside observers would consider intolerable. The British colonial state has been replaced with the Indian colonial state, with those in authority having the same contemptuous attitude towards those outside the circle of power that the British had. Ever since 1947 — and some would add, especially since 1947, as before that, the difference was obvious — there has been a conscious effort to separate those in senior levels of government service from the rest of the population. They have separate access and exits in airports across India, for instance, although of course this facility is shared with those wealthy enough to afford private jets. Incidentally, both VVIPs (Very Very Important Persons) and VVRPs (Very Very Rich Persons) are almost never subjected to any but the most perfunctory security checks at the special gates and counters used by them. Small wonder that there are several reports that huge volumes of cash get transported from one location to the other in such aircraft.
Ever since 1947 — and some would add, especially since 1947, as before that, the difference was obvious — there has been a conscious effort to separate those in senior levels of government service from the rest of the population.
Just as there was one set of laws and procedures for the British and another for the natives, there is — in practice — very different treatment given to those connected (through position, relationship or money) with those in charge of the government. Should the IPS as a group band together to seek the freedom to do what they are legally supposed to do, which is uphold law and order in the country, there is little doubt that politicians would be much more circumspect in placing private interest above public than they are at present. Certainly an individual officer can do very little. However, should the entire service band together, not just to grab more posts or greater privileges the way they are doing now, the present climate of loathing for the political class would assist the IPS in securing greater freedom for themselves than has been the case thus far.
It is time for the men and women in khaki to stand up and defend their right to function in the manner prescribed by law rather than by the whim of their political masters.