New Delhi: Home minister P. Chidambaram conceded on Wednesday that a short-staffed, poorly trained and ill-equipped security force was hobbling India’s fight against Maoist insurgents, and asked state governments to double the recruitment of police personnel.
Home truths: P. Chidambaram (right) with Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh in Raipur on Wednesday. PTI
“Policing a country with insufficient police stations and inadequate and ill-equipped police forces makes the task almost formidable,” he said in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, at the inauguration of the 40th All India Police Science Congress.
Chhattisgarh is among the states worst-hit by Maoist violence, especially in the past two months, where attacks on security personnel and civilians have left scores dead.
The cabinet committee on security is likely to meet soon to discuss enlisting the help of armed forces to defeat the rebels.
“There are not enough police stations. Even where there is a police station, the strength of the police force in a station is often no more than 20 persons,” Chidambaram said in a prepared speech, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint. “In some of the districts most affected by left wing extremism, the police station exists only in name.”
The minister came down hard on state governments, who control their respective police forces. “I do not find states addressing these new and growing requirements,” he said, asking them to double the recruitment of police personnel and improve training facilities.
“The basic training is not adequate to meet the new challenges to security such as terrorism, insurgency and left wing extremism. Besides, specialized schools are necessary to train the police forces in forensic investigation, detective training, intelligence gathering and cyber crime,” he said.
Some 335,000 police posts out of the sanctioned 2.1 million were vacant across the country on 31 March, according to the home ministry.
India’s police to population ratio is 160 per 100,000 people, much lower than the United Nations norm of 222.
In Bihar, the ratio is 75, in Uttar Pradesh it is 115, in Andhra Pradesh it is 125, in Orissa it is 135, and in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, it is 205. All these states face regular Maoist attacks.
The home minister has repeatedly said while the Central government can help out with paramilitary forces, intelligence and logistical support, it was state governments that had to lead the fight against the Maoists.
“Perhaps he is more expressive now. Earlier also, he had been visiting Raipur, Ranchi and other places, asking state government to pull up their socks,” said A.S. Gill, former director general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a paramilitary involved in the anti-Maoist operations in several states.
“It is not that he is cracking the whip on (just) the state governments. He has been doing it with the CRPF also,” said B.G. Varghese, a political analyst and visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. “Since the matter has become more grave, he is becoming more open and strong in his statements.”