Op-Ed: Rulers Must Ensure That Police Morale Remains High

Bhubaneswar: Recently we saw on our TV screens disturbing visuals of a bunch of hoodlums ransacking a police station in the state capital and attacking the men in khaki. Some of the accused, who are believed to have political connections, have since been arrested. It is reassuring that Police Commissioner has promised action against all those found guilty in the case.

Exemplary action is important as much to restore the confidence of the police force as to instill confidence among the common people with regard to the ability of the men in uniform to protect them. The message from the police should be loud and clear—that the force can protect itself as well as the citizenry.

What happened at the Saheed Nagar police station was unfortunate but what gave the hooligans the courage to launch such a dastardly attack on policemen? Was it a feeling of immunity from law because of the political patronage they allegedly enjoy or was it an act of misplaced bravado such as the one that we sometimes get to see in the movies? Both scenarios are horrifying, the first one perhaps even more.

There have been instances in the past where politicians and their lackeys have threatened and attacked policemen. Unfortunately in some cases they got away with it by pulling the right strings. But this is a dangerous trend and it is up to the government of the day to ensure that such incidents don’t recur for they are certain to dent the morale of the police force.

For the people in power, it is imperative to remember that a demoralized force cannot maintain law and order and cannot guarantee peace. As it is the law and order situation in the state is less than happy with cases of murders and rapes being reported with alarming regularity.

Odisha reported as many as 385 cases of gang rapes and 4,749 cases of rape of minor girls between 2014 and 2017. While 1,283 cases of rape of minor girls were reported in the state in 2017, the number of such cases in 2016, 2015 and 2014 was 1,204, 1,212 and 1,050 respectively. Similarly, while 92 gang rape cases were registered in 2017, the number of such cases was 93 in 2016, 109 in 2015, and 91 in 2014.

This is horrifying statistics enough to send a chill down the spines of everyone, the women in particular. Odisha’s notoriety as an unsafe place for the fair sex continues. Add to this the data on murder and such other crimes and the overall picture that emerges is that of a state where goons and rapists are having a field day.

Things continue to be equally sombre on the front of Maoist violence with ultras trying to penetrate into newer areas and targeting alleged police informers with virtual impunity. In most cases of informer killings, the accused remain traceless which saps the confidence of common people living under the shadow of Maoist guns in districts such as Koraput and Malkangiri.

This is not to suggest that our police and the paramilitary forces deployed in the Maoist belt have nothing to show for themselves after years of waging a war against left wing insurgency. There have been success stories but they have been few and far between compared to the losses that the state has suffered in terms of human life and damage to public property.

Perhaps it is time for a change in strategy against the radicals who are active in several districts of the state. But even for a new strategy to be effective, the morale of our forces has to be high.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)