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Safe in the city? City Police reels from shortage !

Published On : 15 Dec 2016

- by Melroy C.F.Fernandes.


The measures taken by the Karnataka government to fill up vacancies in the Karnataka Police service deserve to be complimented.

In November 2016, news agencies quoted the Hon’ble CM of Karnataka as having said that the govt. has already completed the recruitment process of 7,815 constables and that the government will be hiring 4,561 constables and 333 inspectors in 2017-18 and another 4,045 constables and 312 inspectors in 2018-19.

Also, in November 2016, the Hon’ble Home Minister of Karnataka is quoted to have said, ”We have recruited about 19,000 constables already across the state. No government in history has recruited so many personnel in a year..........In the next two months we will give the police 25 vehicles equipped with all the modern gadgets. These vehicles will reach the incident spot within five minutes.”

As citizens, we need to analyze how these above announcements will impact not only the policemen but also the law-abiding common citizenry who depend on the police service for protection from criminals, rowdies, thieves and lumpen elements of society.

A good police service is one of the essential arms of Good Governance.

Shortages against sanctioned strength - Mangalore City Police (MCP)

See RTI reply dtd. 25/08/2015 MCP manning

Total sanctioned strength of Police Constables (PC) – 799
Total vacant posts of PC’s – 331.
Total shortage of PC’s - 41.4%

Most glaring shortages of PC’s:
City Crime Record Bureau (CCRB) Mangalore City - 84.3%
Central Crime Branch (CCB) Mangalore City – 79.2%
North Traffic Police Station (PS) - 75.9%
Women’s PS – 75%
Kavoor PS – 55%
East Traffic PS – 42.8%
Surathkal PS – 41.6%
Mulky PS – 40.5%
On an average most PS’s have a PC shortage of 29%

Other glaring shortages:

City Armed Reserve(CAR) police :
Armed Reserve Sub-Inspector(ARSI) – 81.8%
Armed PC(APC) – 98.2%

Head Constable (HC) – 91.7%
PC – 100%

While these shortages apply to the Mangalore City Police, the Dakshina Kannada(DK) district police too is reeling from shortages. I am given to understand, by a former Superintendent of Police (SP) of DK, that the DK police is actually operating with 1/3rd of its original strength and no reviews as to its adequacy have been made. He explained that when Udupi district was carved out of DK district, the district police lost 1 part of its force and the 2nd part was lost when the Mangalore City Police Commissionerate was formed.

Police to Population ratio:
UN report shows that the median for most countries is around 300 police personnel per lakh of population .(“State of crime and criminal justice worldwide” 2010 report of the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice )

The all India mean for policemen per 1 lakh population is 138 and for Karnataka it is 120.
(2012 publication “Crime in India -2010” found on the NCRB website)

As per data obtained from the MCP:
Total sanctioned strength of personnel = 1784.
Total actual present strength = 995.
Therefore, total shortage of personnel at MCP= 55.8%

The population of Mangalore taluk, including city and rural, is said to be 8,82,856.
( based on 2001 census data found in a report of 2010 -2011 published by DK statistical officer)
(assuming that Mangalore City Police jurisdiction comprises of Mangalore taluk )

Hence, the sanctioned ratio for Mangalore City Police(MCP) (considering all ranks) is 202 personnel per 1 lakh population.

However, the actual present ratio for MCP stands at 112 personnel per 1 lakh population. That is a shortage of about 55 % from the sanctioned levels.

Police density per 100 sq.kms:
The all India mean for policemen per 100 sq.kms. is 52.9 and for Karnataka it is 37.7.
(as reported in a 2012 publication “Crime in India -2010” found on the NCRB website)
(whether the above report has considered actual on-duty availability at a particular time of day/night is not known)

Let us explain this using the example of Moodbidri PS.

The jurisdiction of Moodbdiri PS extends from around Kaikamba to close to Sanoor. This is a distance by road(highway)of around 25-30kms. This means, on a conservative basis, the PS jurisdiction comprises 452.4 sq.kms. (if we assume the PS to be at the centre of a circle having a radius of 12kms around the PS).

As per the RTI reply dtd. 25/8/2016, the Moodbidri PS has an actual present total strength(considering all ranks) of 39 personnel. Therefore, considering all ranks, there are only 8.6 policemen per 100sq.kms at Moodbidri PS!

But this is not the actual reality. The reality is that the foot soldiers or the beat personnel are the PC’s and their total actual strength is 23. The police stations work on a 24x7 basis. So let us assume that we have 11 PC’s on duty at night and 3 HC’s on duty at night. That makes for a total of 14 personnel available on night duty when you call the PS at night. Now, obviously the PS cannot be left unmanned hence let us assume that a minimum of 2 personnel remain at the PS all the time during the night. This leaves us with only 12 personnel to patrol 452.4 sq.kms! That means we have only 1 policeman to attend a call, at night, within a beat radius of 3.47kms. To put that in perspective: 3.47kms is roughly the distance between DC office, Mangalore to Mangalore City Corporation office. Google Maps shows that it would take at least 13 mins by car to reach the destination from DC office to MCC office. Imagine only 1 policeman to attend to calls at a range of 3.47kms on all four sides!

This simply means that the existing actual man power of PC’s at every PS has to be increased by least 6 times the existing levels in order that at least 2 policemen patrol not more than a radius of 2kms(i.e. 12.57sq.kms). It is only then that they MAY be able to attend a call within 5mins!

This action of increasing the PC’s would bring the no. of policemen per 100 sq.kms to 40.4, which is still below the mean of 52.9 at the all India level.

As citizens we need to ask, “ aren’t 50 -100 households lying within 12.57sq.kms entitled to patrolling by at least 2 policemen at night-time(we are not yet talking about daytime)? Isn’t safety and security one of the things we citizens are entitled to? Are we not worth preventative policing for the taxes we pay?”

How come senior public functionaries, ministers etc. have a PC to drive them, a PC to carry their bags , a PC to open the car-door and a PC here and a PC there ,everywhere a PC . But stop and think! Why do politicians and administrators create shortages and provide no money for preventative policing of citizens?

At present our policing system is a “reactive policing” system. Meaning, they can only reach you: after you are dead, after you have been burgled, after an incident of nuisance etc. The law-breakers know that even in an emergency and even if the police react immediately, still the police can never reach you within less than 30mins to prevent a crime.

Police patrol-cars:
Let us consider a case of only 12 personnel being available on night duty for rounds or to answer a call from a citizen. For the safety of policemen(they are not SUPERMAN or even HANUMAN) they should always go around in pairs. This would mean that they would need at least 6 police patrol-cars. The maximum I have seen at any PS are not more than 2 or 3 cars. Whether, the cars of senior personnel are made available for beat personnel is not known to me. So that means we have less patrol-cars than needed for safe patrolling. Considering, the above and considering that MCP has 18 PS’s, it follows, in the present scenario, that the MCP(alone) needs a minimum of 18 x 3 = 54 patrol – cars!

2-wheelers are not safe because the policeman can be easily attacked by lumpen elements of society.

In rural areas, the police have to deal with bad roads, narrow mud roads/paths, unlit roads/paths, forest areas, fields etc. to find the law-breaker. This itself can consume much time. Also, the police personnel are not even equipped with powerful torches/safety equipment to deal with this kind of terrain at night.

Inside a city area, there is a possibility that there are well lit and paved roads but the police are still hampered by traffic jams, especially during the daytime, and therefore it is near impossible to reach a crime scene within 5 mins , even inside a city.

Protection to VIP & public functionaries:
One other factor that affects availability of policemen is the protection extended by the police to VIP’s and public functionaries etc. As per RTI reply dtd. 29/8/2015 from MCP, there are only 7 persons who are given such protection and this requires 8 Armed HC’s. The RTI reply may be seen atMCP protection

Workhours of police personnel at PS’s:
The replies from 18 PS’s of the MCP to my RTI application, made in July 2015 to the MCP HQ, are confused and vague. This may arise from a lack of proper written standard operating procedures. The information was sought from the MCP head office but they forwarded it to 18 PS’s for reply, which shows that the head office itself has no idea how many hours their personnel work for:

(i) Some of the replies claim that PS personnel work 8 hours a day and some claim that they work 12 hours a day under normal conditions. Some claim that the day shift is between 8a.m. to 8p.m. and night shift from 8p.m. to 8a.m.

(ii) No information has been provided about how the rest hours are regulated, monitored and recorded. Some have said that there is no such system. Some claim that PS personnel are given compensatory off if they work 12 hours continuously. Some say that there are no specific rest hours. Some say that the rest hours are monitored at normal times but cannot be monitored during emergencies.

(iii) Some say that some compensation is given if the weekly off is not availed. But all in all no information has been provided about provisions for compensating the rest hours of the concerned personnel in case of emergencies and extra work hours over the normal work hours.

(iv) In case of VIP, bandobast duties, election duties etc. , most of the replies unequivocally state that they work 24hours depending on the situation.

The RTI replies can be viewed at MCP workhours

From my observations, during election times I have come across police personnel who have had to stand for nearly 3 days! At times of riots, mob–control, bandobast duties, election campaigning , when posted at outposts such as at coastal outposts etc.: police personnel have no access to basic human facilities like toilets, wash-rooms, drinking water, food, lights, proper shoes/clothing, shelter from natural elements etc.

Hence, police staffing should be increased such that at least the ground staff (i.e.:the staff who do the leg-work) can work in 8 hour shifts(in any case not more than 10hours at a stretch) on normal days, election days, bandobast days, mob-control days etc. The only exception should be times of emergencies (i.e.:unplanned events). When posted at various places away from the PS policemen/women should have access to clean wash-rooms, toilets, food and drinking water etc. This can be done by ordering police vans (fitted with bio-toilets) to fulfil these needs or providing alternative arrangements.

Police shortages are not limited only to Karnataka:
The problems faced by the police mentioned above are the same with the police all over India.

One Sub-Inspector from Maharashtra revealed to me how they have to pool in money from their pockets to pay the PS electricity bills to prevent disconnection because the govt. does not release the funds for upkeep of the PS in time. Police personnel also speak of how police housing-quarters are given only to those who have influence or who can bribe, how they have to handle dead/decomposing bodies without gloves and the list goes on.

Shri Abhinav Kumar ,an IPS officer serving in UP, had revealed(on the nationalised TV show Satyamev Jayate) that the budget allocated to fill petrol/diesel in police vehicles is so inadequate that policemen have to beg for favours from the petrol pumps and then need to return those favours in kind.

In a 2010 interview published on news, then Home Secretary Shri G.K. Pillai is quoted to have said, “ Let me give you an example of shortages. In an area as sensitive to left wing insurgency as Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), there is only one police station, in Antagarh. Until a year ago, its sanctioned strength was 11. At a given time, six to seven policemen used to be present there. They were given no arms because there was a danger that the Naxalites would snatch their arms. The Naxalites were, of course, happy about this as overpowering the policemen would have taken them 40 -60 minutes.”

Despite all these shortages and handicaps, I must say that our police personnel do a pretty good job.

What can we do as citizens?
We can write to the local MLA, District-in-charge Minister, Home Minister, Chief Minister, Commissioner of Police/SP. We can point out the deficiencies that we observe in the functioning of the administration and the difficulties we face in our day-to-day life and request/demand better governance.

As citizens we have to remember that the power to elect the politician lies in our hands. So our motto should be,” If we do not get good governance and if we do not find a more honourable/suitable politician then we shall still vote but we shall vote for NOTA – None of The Above!”

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