The Delhi Police Department is probably one of the most corrupt, venal and ineffective police departments anywhere in India, or for that matter in the world. The inconsiderate behavior, thug tactics and plain out criminal collusion of members of Delhi police is old news to every person – young and old – capable of reading a newspaper or holding a conversation in the street. The only people who view Delhi police as a benevolent, dutiful protector of law and order belong to that very small minority who live in gated houses and communities, surrounded by wealth and the trappings of power. Such individuals have never had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of Delhi police justice. For the other 99% of the populace, those not lucky enough to have a senior (or even junior) government officer as a family relation or who’s family is not endowed with great wealth and power, Delhi police is a byword for injustice, oppression and lawlessness.
These might sound like strong words if you haven’t experienced this city’s police first-hand, but if you have had that misfortune then you’ll know that my description is tame compared to the reality. In broad daylight plainclothes policemen in official vehicles drive down our street to collect protection money from various businesses. If you happen to be making a building there are set rates depending on the number of floors in your construction and the total area. It is no surprise then calls to the 100 police emergency number in order to report construction occurring in an illegal manner and at prohibited times of the day (or rather “night”) are told that “PCR aa rahi hai” (“the Police Control Vehicle is on its way”). Of course, no PCR ever shows up.
Police set up road-blocks arbitrarily stopping traffic. The ostensible purpose is to search for contraband and to intercept terrorists and such but the real purpose – to extort money from the most vulnerable motorists – plays out on Delhi’s streets in an open and shameless display each and every day.
This is not to say that the entire force is corrupt or that there are no selfless and dutiful officers and constables in Delhi Police. Surely, it is only the fact that there are such people that is keeping Delhi Police from completely taking on the form of an organized criminal enterprise. I have personally encountered some such exemplary individuals. I also realize that the majority of people who are in Delhi Police signed up because of a true desire to serve society rather than in order to fulfill personal ambitions of ill-gotten wealth and power.
Most policemen don’t leave home in the morning thinking of how much money they will extort that day or how many innocent people they will lock up for crimes those innocents did not commit. Like members of any other profession, policemen and policewomen leave home everyday hoping to face a day with few obstacles so that they may return home to their loved ones safe and sound at night. However, the good intentions of these hard-working men and women of the force does not diminish the level of administrative rot that exists at the heart of Delhi Police and it does nothing to salve the wounds of the public which must suffer everyday at the hands of their supposed protectors.
The reason for the callous behavior of Delhi Police is simple enough – zero accountability. For starters Delhi Police is not under the control of the elected government of the state of Delhi. It remains under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India. At the top sits the Home Minister – who can be anyone depending on the prevailing political winds. Below the minister is the top bureaucrat – the Secretary of the Home Ministry, an IAS officer, not accountable to the voters. It is essentially this one individual, who bears no accountability to the people of Delhi and who therefore has no personal incentive in ensuring the safety and security of the common man and woman, who holds the reigns of the police force in a city state of almost 20 million.
Once again, it is not that politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt and evil by default. But even if that were not true – and it is in a majority of cases – by its very design the Delhi Police and its top officials are not accountable to Delhi’s citizens. Their only loyalty needs to lie with their political and bureaucratic masters who can transfer these officers at their whim and fancy. The system is designed to encourage sycophancy, cronyism and to enable the rise of the most corrupt and selfish people through the ranks. After all when faced with the prospect of kow-towing to the demands of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, those officers who retain some measure of honesty, are likely to decline high posts when offered the same, leaving the path clear for the sycophants and deal-makers.
It has taken a terrible crime committed against a 23 year old medical student in a moving bus in the heart of Delhi’s most secure districts to lift the veil hiding the facade and expose the true nature of our city’s police-force to the entire world. Even as I write this the top leadership is desperately scrambling to plug the many leaks and weaknesses in the stories they have woven in order to exonerate themselves of all culpability in this horrific crime or in their inept handling of the protests which followed.
Regardless of whether she lives or dies, the girl has already sacrificed her life at the altar of unbounded corruption and injustice. Her sacrifice cannot be in vain. The protestors on the street should demand no less than a complete overhaul of the system from the roots up. That involves the empowerment of something akin to a constituent assembly to review all laws and systems which originated during British rule and are still used to govern the lives of hundreds and millions of citizens in India. In order to truly be a plural, secular, democracy India must shed these last vestiges of the past and prepare itself to move into a future unencumbered by poverty and ignorance, a future where no woman in any part of the country, at any time of day or night and regardless of her state of dress will ever have to fear for their modesty, for their honor and for their life.
“Most rapes in the NCR are consensual”.
“Women invite rapes by dressing provocatively”.
“Rape has become a business. Most girls file rape complaints to extort money from innocent men”.
These are the unfiltered views of some of Delhi’s finest. Somehow, I doubt these officers would feel the same way if this happened to their daughters or sisters. Perhaps they should try walking a few steps in the shoes of a rape victim.