We need one common central body to recruit police personnel

By Sanjiv Kataria, IANS,

The manner in which the new home minister (P. Chidambaram) went about his Mumbai visit on Dec 5 convinces one that things are in for a big change. His honesty of purpose, resolute desire for action and empathy for families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy is visible to me as an ordinary citizen. A week later, on Dec 11, he made a passionate plea to the country’s lawmakers to respect policemen.

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As an ordinary citizen, I am also convinced that different wings of the security forces involved with internal security will learn from the recent events in Mumbai (26/11 terror strike) and begin to act with greater coordination. Admissions have been made that those responsible for lapses will not have an opportunity to repeat their mistakes.

That many steps are being taken to upgrade the weapons and security infrastructure in the country is also apparent from the alacrity with which some of the pending proposals have been cleared.

The third area that needs urgent attention is the issue of human resources.

It’s an admittedly gargantuan task. One that will involve training of existing forces, fresh induction in adequate numbers, and a proper reward and compensation structure for the internal security forces.

The biggest challenge facing induction of fresh talent in the security forces is India’s federal structure that gives a great deal of autonomy to the states to set their own standards and benchmarks while recruiting personnel.

To add to this, the newspapers are replete with stories detailing mass scale suspension of recruitments done by previous chief ministers. Imagine a north Indian state chief minister sacking 18,000 of the 20,000 policemen hired in 2007, just because they had been recruited by the previous regime. This kind of action needs to stop forthwith.

We need one common central body to recruit police personnel based on requests by state governments.

The recruitment standards for police personnel have to move well beyond the current criteria of minimum physical fitness standards, educational qualifications, knowledge of English and one or more Indian languages and computers.

We need to entrust the task of testing and interviewing candidates to a UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) kind of body that may take the help of professional computer-based testing agencies like the ones that conduct tests for GMAT or GRE.

Psychological tests can be a great tool in weeding out any abnormal criminal tendencies, schizophrenia and customer unfriendly behaviour traits.

The idea is to make the entry to the police forces totally professional and free of any pulls, pressure and caste considerations.

The earlier we embark on this task of right hiring, right skilling of the forces, the better it will be.

The stature, reward and compensation structure of security forces have to improve significantly to attract the best talent. If India wants to be protected by smart, intelligent security forces, it must respect them and pay a premium for attracting talent.

(Sanjiv Kataria is a strategic communications counsel. He can be contacted at [email protected]).