Monday, 2 June 2008

Why the CBI?

A young girl, the daughter of a dentist couple, gets murdered--and we not only see a media feeding frenzy, because of the plethora of 24/7 news channels--but we also see the Noida cops behaving abominably, with no reprimands forthcoming from the UP administration. So, as is usual with all cases that are bungled by the local police force. the CBI is called in.

Why is it that our politicians and babus are unable to bring the local (state-level) police force up to scratch? Why are policemen, especially at the lower levels, forced to live subhuman lives so that they have little or no enthusiasm to do a professional job? Our politicians--who are far too busy managing their constituencies and remaining in permanent campaign mode (rather the way Scott McClellan described his ex-boss, the present President Bush)--have little or no time to pay attention to improving the administration or the crime-fighting apparatus. They’re too busy using the local police force to take on their political rivals, or using the lure of jobs to get recruits to pay for jobs in the police (very French ancien regime--I’m sure Louis XIV’s valet would have recognized the procedure!)

When I look at modern India, I’m reminded of 18th or early 19th century Britain--the land of appalling maladministration (remember the novels of Charles Dickens) and political corruption (rotten boroughs--think of any political constituency in India). Also of the post-Civil War US, when corruption was a regular part of life, not only in the state government, but also at the federal level. However, all that changed with the gradual rise to power of the middle class, and on its insistence on law and order. Hence, you saw the setting up of the Metropolitan Police Force in the UK and Theodore Roosevelt’s support for the muckrackers (who exposed political and economic scandals) in the US.

Let us hope--after the successful conclusion of the Nitish Katara, Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases--that the middle class gets ready to fight for an efficient state police force, which can not only fight crime but also stave off terrorist threats, with federal help if required, but on its own if necessary. Such a police force should be able to use the law and scientific investigation, not just the lathi and third-degree methods, to win against crime.

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