The Covid pandemic has affected every country and really changed our lives. Each nation has been doing whatever it can to contain the effects on its population and specifically on the economy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been leading the nation from the front. As a true democratic leader, he has been taking everyone’s opinion and coming up with firm decisions. His call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat, could not have come at a more appropriate time. History has taught us that a nation which is self-reliant, does not get affected by global economic upheavals. With our economy undergoing large scale transformation over the years and being a major player in the world economy, it is now time to again think of self-reliance.
For any economy to thrive and prosper, an environment of peace and security is absolutely essential. In our federal structure, it is the States who have the responsibility to look after maintenance of law and order and investigation of crime. The Central Government has only a supportive role and that too with the concurrence of the concerned State. Each State or region has problems of internal security which are quite different. In this context, the handling of these problems requires a specialized approach. Collection of intelligence is extremely vital for ensuring proper planning and precise execution. In the days of technological advancement, use of high-end technology in the field of real time intelligence is the key but expensive.
Sadly, many States have not taken policing seriously. Low funding and lack of appreciation of the growing situation has led to a state of apathy where the police forces have to function in the age-old archaic manner. This is a matter of serious concern. It has resulted in excessive dependence on the centre for not only additional forces, but also funding. This kind of an arrangement has not worked well. The State police is always better off in handling local situations as it an organization which comes from within. It gels well with the society and being a part of it, comes to know about minor incidents in time. It is able to generate quality intelligence wherever required. Moreover, the power of maintenance of law and order being with the States, the responsibility and accountability should also be with them. Power with one and responsibility with another does not seem to be a proper arrangement. It has not worked well, nor is it going to work well.
The challenges in the field of national security can be broadly listed as, cross border terrorism in Kashmir, left wing extremism in eastern and southern India, activities of insurgent and ethnic groups in the north east, and last but not the least the possibilities of terror strikes. Though, ever since 2014, when Prime Minister Modi took up the reins of governance, the days of serial bombings across multiple cities have now receded into the past. We have local problems like the growth of organized crime and extortion mafias. Fortunately, Prime Minister Modi, has taken a lead role in the field of internal security. He has been attending all the DG’s Conference, without fail, every year and taking stock of the situation. As a result, the situation has been improving in all the sectors. I am sure, with his continued leadership, most of the problems will soon be on the way to being addressed and resolved.
When we started dealing with these problems, the States were not in a position to really fight on their own. They had to rely heavily on the central forces. The availability of central forces delayed the process of capacity building by the states. While facing the problem of left-wing extremism, the badly affected states realized that the approach is not giving the desired results. They soon started working to develop their own mechanism. Undivided Andhra Pradesh can be regarded as the pioneer in this approach. They developed their own architecture. A specialised intelligence wing, a specially trained force and above all the acceptance of the problem as their own. This dramatically changed the situation and soon they were on top. Other states, like Odisha and Maharashtra followed their model and achieved success in equal measure. During the last six years, because of the foresight of Prime Minister Modi, other States like Chhattisgarh, which is the worst affected, and Jharkhand, were also encouraged and helped to start the same model. They have also done exceedingly well after they took the problem on them.
The activities of insurgent groups in the north east is on a low ebb. The initial response by the central forces had succeeded in controlling the explosive situation to a large extent. Several peace accords with these groups has been behind the peace which seemingly exists today. However, the militants involved with these groups have taken to extortion, gun running and trans-border smuggling giving a new dimension to the problem. Several anti-accord groups have emerged making the task of tracking their activities more complex. Except, Assam, the other six states need to do more to improve their fighting capacity. Being located on the sensitive border with China and Myanmar, it is all the more relevant that this is done on priority.
When we discuss about terrorism, Punjab is the state which comes to everyone’s mind. The intensity of the problem was so severe that it had caused great concern. Initially the centre had to step in and provide all support to contain the problem. Contain was all they could do. It was only after the state police took the ownership of the problem, things started to drastically improve and finally ended. Full credit must be given to Punjab police for this outstanding work. Coming to the problem in Kashmir, since the inception of terrorism in 1989, the issue has all along being handled by the centre. This has perhaps a lot to do with the special status that the state had, till recently. Even now, being a territory administered by the centre the onus is on them to ensure maintenance of law and order. Jammu & Kashmir’s own police is now showing some signs of resurgence and there is a need to make the Police Stations as the focal points for having control and watch over the situation. For this, they have to be adequately staffed, modernized with weaponry and communication equipment and a dedicated intelligence desk. It is Kashmir police which should lead. Others should only assist, till they are capable on their own.
All States have to develop and modernize their intelligence set ups to counter the ever-present threat of terror attack from fundamentalist groups. They also need to develop their own tactical units to respond quickly till special forces reach. This may require substantial investment, but it is better than being caught in a hopeless situation.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat would essentially require an aatmanirbhar system to effectively deal with security challenges that the country is facing. To my mind, we can achieve this by making the State police forces more empowered, modernized, independent and professional. I am sure that Prime Minister Modi, with his personal interest in these matters, would be the driving force behind this.
(The writer is a Former DGP, Odisha & Former DG, CRPF. His views are personal.)
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