Thursday, October 18, 2007

Two more years of education will not make a better policeman

THE police is one of the fastest growing government outfits in Kerala. Fifteen years ago, its strength was below 25,000. Now it is above 42,000. It is doubtful if any other department has grown as fast during this period.

As society progresses, crime goes up. This has been the experience worldwide. To deal with growing crime, the police force has to grow proportionately. Judging by standards adopted by modern societies, the State police force is small. But, then, it is not enough to raise the strength of the police. Its performance must also improve. However, the authorities do not take as much interest in qualitative growth as in quantitative growth.

At present, the minimum educational qualification for recruitment to the police is the Secondary School Leaving Certificate. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has stated that the government proposes to raise this. Youth organizations, which stand in the way of raising the age of superannuation from 55 years on the ground that it will result in loss of employment opportunities, have not responded to this. The minister’s justification for revision of educational qualification is that 60% of those selected in the last round of recruitment were graduates.

Of the four million registered jobseekers in Kerala, one and a half per cent, that is about 60,000, are postgraduates. With so many postgraduates wandering in search of jobs, there maybe enough takers even if the government prescribes post-graduation as the minimum qualification for recruitment as police constable. That, however, is no justification for doing it.

As is clear from the minister’s statement, despite the onrush by degree holders, those without degrees got 40% of the posts. About 60% of the jobseekers, that is about 2.4 million people, have only studied up to SSLC. It is unjust to make such a large number ineligible for the post of police constable.

The popular impression that there is a serious problem of educated unemployment in Kerala is not correct. According to the figures of 2005, given in the Economic Report, which was presented to the State Assembly this year, 76.5% of the jobseekers have educational qualifications of SSLC or less. The Information Technology and tourism sectors in which the government and the people place hope will not do much good to those with such low educational qualifications. Doors now available to them must not be closed without opening new ones.

When A. K. Antony was Chief Minister, the police was given freedom of action and a commission with former Supreme Court judge K. T. Thomas as chairman and former Additional Chief Secretary T. N. Jayachandran and former Director General of Police K. V. Rajagopalan Nair as members was appointed to study the performance and accountability of the police force and make recommendations. Raising the educational qualification for recruitment from SSLC to Pre-degree Course was one of the measures the commission proposed. It is not known whether it was of the view that a person who has studied for two more years will make a better policeman. There is no basis for such a belief. That human quality improves with education is a superstition prevalent among the educated.

The Home Minister revealed in the Assembly recently that 607 members of the police force are facing criminal charges, including rape and murder. That one out of 70 policemen is involved in criminal cases is not something that can be lightly dismissed. Those at the helm of the force are persons with high educational qualifications. Since there are persons with criminal tendencies even among them, we cannot assume that a higher entry qualification will lead to a better police force.

Besides raising the educational qualification, the K. T. Thomas Commission proposed some other measures, too, to improve the performance of the police. These included lowering the maximum age limit for recruitment from 30 years to 25 and the creation of a new agency for recruitment. Some of these are also under the government’s consideration. There is one topic that merits even greater attention than these: better training. We have a police set-up devised by foreign rulers and the maharajas to meet their needs. It has still not been recast in keeping with the requirements of a democratic society. Meanwhile political infiltration in the police force is taking place. The police still follows the colonial-feudal tradition of protecting wrongdoers in its ranks. This is possible because democratic regimes are willing to accept the argument that the morale of the force will be affected if action is taken against them.
Based on article appearing in “Nerkkazhcha” column of Kerala Kaumudi dated October 18, 2007.

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