India possibly has the largest number of laws. But what about their effective...
The entire government machinery, especially the men in uniform, have to be comprehensively trained to change their behavioural pattern
I will begin with a personal experience and attempt to present a larger issue through this. It took place recently, when I was returning from Lucknow to Meerut. There is one room adjacent to the GRP (government railway police) station at Charbagh Railway Station, Lucknow's main railway station, which is used as a guestroom. Often, senior government functionaries go there to wait either for their trains or for their friends/relatives to arrive. I, along with my wife Nutan, also went to the guestroom while waiting for the Nauchandi Express. There I found the GRP Inspector of Charbagh through whose office we were ushered into the adjacent guestroom.
There, we had just settled down, when we heard a booming voice replete with highly abusive words. It was followed by a heavy barrage of the choicest of the abusive words in chaste Hindi. The person, possibly some policeman in the Inspector's room, was continuously using these abusive words to someone whom he seemed to be interrogating. This went for quite some time, where a sentence would start with one abusive word and would end with another, to be followed in some other sequence.
It was as if the person speaking these words knew nothing else than these expletives. Another thing was that he was using these words in such a loud voice that it must have been getting heard for quite some distance from the room.
When these abuses were going on, it made me remember my own past. After having joined the police service, use of abusive words was among the first things that I learnt. Since there was no dearth of opportunity and others rarely opposed the use of these words, I became a perennial abuser. Whenever I used these words, I used to think of myself as being very powerful and had a feeling that it was having a great terrorising effect on others. But somehow whenever my parents or my wife heard me use these words, they made very adverse comments about this. Then one fine day, when I was again using an abusive word, wife Nutan butted in and asked why was I using such words unnecessarily. I reacted by saying that I would not use these abuses any more in the future-and since that day, I have almost completely stopped using abusive words anywhere, in office or in my conversations.
But I was certainly not the only policeman who was using this barrage of abusive words. Instead, I would say that this is certainly a most-commonly found feature in subordinate policemen in northern India. Or, is this the situation in the entire nation? Often policemen use such sentences, more so when they are on duty, which would have one or two abusive words.
Apparently, they try to use these abusive words to deter and threaten the other side. But from whatever I was observing at Charbagh Railway Station, it seemed that all these abusive words were only drying up the officer's throat, because the person at the receiving end of these words was hardly reacting in any favourable manner. Thus while the police officer was using nonstop abuses, its impact and effect seemed also zero. The only persons possibly feeling the heat of those abusive words were myself and Nutan.
This train of events made me think of the larger issue of a proper behavioural pattern that is needed in the government system, more so in the police. I lay special emphasis on the police force, because it is a completely public-oriented service where there is a need for regular interaction between policemen and the common people. But this certainly does not mean that other government departments are immune to this inappropriate behaviour. Before joining the IPS (Indian Police Service) and thus getting enlisted in the select brand of 'privileged' people, I have been at the receiving end of all kinds of abusive language in public transport buses, in trains, in government hospitals and so on, where government servants seemed to have a panacea in the form of abusive language whenever they felt the heat of public anger.
Thus, one dirty word and the person in front, if he is not used to such disgusting language, naturally prefers to not remain in the scene. Yet, this phenomenon is more prominent in the police force, possibly because policemen have more visible authority and also probably because they use these words more frequently, openly and brazenly than others.
Often, we find a police constable calling a poor man or a rickshaw puller names openly in the street, which only helps in alienating the people from the police and forming a poor opinion about the entire police department.
We in India still possibly need a lot of training in behavioural aspects, possibly at the subordinate level. It is possible that these employees are under so much stress that abuses seem to be the shortcut to achieve their goals for them. But we need to ask ourselves- "Is it really working? Is it effective?" Equally important, we must also delve into the question-"Isn't use of such dirty language coming in the way of better policing?" and whether we have an alternative to this culture of abuse.
I lay special emphasis on this, because I recently had an opportunity to go to Britain for police training and had got introduced to the functioning of the British Police where we saw how coolly and decently they behaved with the accused. When we went to a Police Station in Manchester, it took us by surprise to find the attitude of a young boy who had just been arrested for some theft. He was hardly feeling threatened or frightened and was talking in a most relaxed manner with the policemen in the station. Just across the room, there was another accused being interrogated, who was seated in front of two policemen and they were all laughing and chatting. This seemed so much in stark contradiction with our police stations where only the bravest dare to venture. We all know that the worst punishment a middle-class decent man can be inflicted is to be asked to go to a police station to get an FIR (first information report) registered.
Hence, there seems to be an immediate need for members of Indian police to change the emphasis from unnecessary abusive and discourteous language to shift to more scientific gadgets, better training capsules, more emphasis on behavioural tools and bring across a fundamental shift in the basic thinking of policemen. This needs training and special efforts. The concept of behaviour modification might also prove useful here. Behaviour modification is the use of empirically-demonstrated behavioural change techniques, such as altering an individual's behaviour and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behaviour and/or the reduction of maladaptive behaviour through its extinction, punishment and/or therapy. Today, there are so many behaviour-modification training programmes which use assistance of the core concepts of behaviour management and even behaviour engineering. All these tools and training techniques/modifications need to be adopted for the police department in a big way. The only thing that needs to be kept in mind while applying all these techniques is that they are suitably adopted for the Indian context in general and the police department in particular. This is needed because often, the improper application of methodologies used in foreign lands without their required modifications, reduces their effectiveness to a great extent and might even prove to be counter-productive.
Therein lies the crux for better policing and better governance in India.
(Amitabh Thakur is an IPS officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre and president of the National RTI Forum).
What can you do if you are faced with a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment from...