There is an obvious shortage of police personnel on the ground in Uttarakhand. This is either because of a shortfall in number of cops recruited, or faulty deployment, or both. It is a fact that the department is top-heavy in the state and, along with the number required for the security of the numerous VIPs, many personnel are posted just to serve the senior officers that have such onerous responsibilities as ‘Rules and Manuals’. Those remaining have to man the ground responsibilities of law and order, crime prevention, traffic control, crowd management, etc.
Electoral pressure has forced the state government to initiate recruitment of 1521 constables, which would help relieve some pressure on the force. However, government must undertake a comprehensive study on the actual need for cops at various levels, as well as the policing philosophy behind their deployment, the teeth to tail ratio as it were. The usual route in this regard would be the setting up of a commission to establish the criteria, resulting in yet another position for a senior officer to occupy with all the ‘necessary’ paraphernalia. A way to circumvent this would be to get an external agency like an IIT to conduct a study on police functioning in the state in a time-bound manner. This should be vetted by the politicians so that the hard decisions necessary can be taken. If there are not enough officers at the subordinate levels and too many manning desks, the necessary rationalisation can be initiated. The senior officials could be shifted to general administrative positions or sent back to the Central Government.
The force has to be visible and functional at the level where it matters. Enforcement of Corona related restrictions, for instance, has meant that two-wheeler riders are wearing masks but dispensing with helmets. The pre-corona period had seen a near total implementation of a number of important safety regulations on the roads. All that has gone for a toss, which obviously means that the force is stretched beyond its capacity and its officers are not being able to innovate an adequate response. The elections are due soon, which will pose another challenge. Hopefully, once the new government takes charge, reform in the state’s police force will be a high priority so that the basic services are adequately delivered.