Principles of reservation and diversity do not matter while recruiting state police personnel

Shahid Tantray
30 September, 2019

How diverse is the Indian police? Not much, according to the “Status of Policing in India Report 2019,” or SPIR. According to the report, marginalised communities, such as the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes are under-represented in the police forces of almost all the states. Common Cause, an NGO, and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a social-science research institute, prepared the report by using official government data and surveying close to twelve thousand police personnel across 21 states.

The findings of the report suggest that state police forces recruit primarily from upper-caste communities. When presented with these findings, retired police officers did not seem to see any issues. Instead, they emphasised that the principles of reservation and diversity are not given importance while recruiting personnel. “At the time of police recruitment, anyone who is physically fit is selected and, to the best of my knowledge, there is no discrimination,” Prakash Singh, a senior retired IPS officer who has served as the director general of two state police forces, said.

“If people from certain communities are not coming forward it is their problem and there is hardly anything that the police can do,” he added. Singh is the chairman of the Indian Police Foundation, a think tank that works on the efficiency and social sensitivity of the police. The think tank provided letters of endorsement to the SPIR team, which helped in its data collection. Vipul Mudgal, the director of Common Cause, however, emphasised the importance of diversity. “No one is saying that one should have token representation, but all the vulnerable sections should be represented,” Mudgal said.

Each state police force has a different quota of reservation for SC, ST and OBC personnel. A 2017 report by the Bureau of Police Research and Development provides a breakdown of these numbers. For instance, the Punjab police has sanctioned a 25-percent reservation for the SC community—the highest reservation for the community in any state’s police force. But Dalits comprise nearly thirty percent of Punjab’s population. The SPIR calculated the average percentage of personnel from these communities in the state police between 2012 and 2016 in proportion to the sanctioned percentage of posts for them. According to the report, few states have been able to fill the posts reserved for candidates from these communities.

Barring two states, all the states and UTs selected for measuring the representation of SCs in the SPIR fall short of meeting the sanctioned percentage of posts reserved for the community. Punjab scored the highest with 101.8 percent and Uttarakhand came a close second with 100.8 percent. Uttar Pradesh scored the lowest, having filled only 40.2 percent of the posts for SC candidates. According to the 2017 BPRD report, the state provides a 21-percent reservation for the community. Chhattisgarh scored 55 percent in the SPIR—it reserves 12 percent for the community. Haryana, which reserves 15 percent posts for the SC community, scored 57.1 percent in the SPIR report.

States perform slightly better when it comes to filling the sanctioned posts for STs—six states scored more than the 100-percent benchmark. Uttarakhand is the best performing, with a score of 152.5 percent, followed by Telangana at 144.6 percent. According to the 2017 BPRD report, Uttarakhand reserves 4 percent of the posts for the community while Telangana reserves 6 percent. Punjab and Haryana had the lowest percentages in the SPIR report—they scored 0 percent and 3.6 percent respectively. Punjab has sanctioned a 25-percent reservation for STs, while Haryana has a 7.5-percent reservation, according to the 2017 BPRD report.

Only nine state police forces scored more than the 100-percent benchmark in filling the sanctioned posts for the OBC community. Telangana scored the best, with 145.3 percent. It reserves 25 percent for the community according to the 2017 BPRD report. West Bengal, which scored just 22 percent in the SPIR report, has a reservation of 17 percent for OBCs.

Surprisingly, states which have witnessed the biggest socio-economic movements by the OBC community, especially with respect to reservations, fare poorly. Uttar Pradesh has filled only 49.3 percent of the sanctioned posts for the OBC community, while Bihar has filled 70.6 percent. According to the BPRD report, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar police forces have a 27-percent and 33-percent reservation for the community. Singh said, “Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav or Akhilesh Yadav”—both former chief ministers—“were keen on Yadavising the police force in Uttar Pradesh, which they did, but since then recruitments have been impartial.”

Women barely have any representation in our police force. Between 2012 and 2016, the average percentage of women in 23 states was only 7.3 percent. The ministry of home affairs had sent three advisories to state governments—in September 2009, April 2013 and May 2014—to increase the representation of women to 33 percent. None of the states have even come close to this benchmark. Mudgal said, “Diversity is key. The moment you have more women on the force, the entire complexion of the working changes.” Moreover, the report noted that SCs, STs, OBCs and women are less likely to get recruited or promoted to officer-level posts, as compared to those from the general category. This observation only took into account the ranks ranging from assistant sub-inspector todeputy superintendent of police.

Policies for recruiting police personnel vary statewise. Certain rules are relaxed for SC, ST and OBC candidates pertaining to age and physical and educational qualifications. For instance, in Kerala, the upper age-limit for applying for the posts of a constable is 25 years for general candidates, 28 years for OBC candidates, and 30 years for SC or ST candidates. Similarly, minimum height and chest measurements are lower for SC or ST candidates. Other states have similar guidelines for recruitments from marginalised communities. Even so, like most other states, Kerala has fared poorly in the SPIR report.

Singh and Mahendra Singh Chaudhary, a retired inspector general of police, who is from Rajasthan’s Jat community, claimed that the police’s criteria for recruitment is “suitability,” not diversity. Chaudhary said, “If suitable candidates among SCs and STs cannot be found then those vacancies will be carried forward, they will not be filled by general candidates.” When I asked him why he thought that suitable candidates were not found, he said that other government jobs, such as becoming teachers, village patwaris—accountants—and gram panchayat secretaries were more desirable to people from these communities. “In the last four–five years, even those who join as police constables leave when they get these other government jobs,” he said.

Singh said, “The police cannot just take people just because we must appear to be diverse, because we have to deliver on the field also,” he said. But Mugdal flagged a lack of political will as one of the reasons for the lack in diversity. “State governments have been extremely lazy. They do very patchy police recruitments,” he said. “For instance, just before elections they will have vacancies filled. Plus, they don’t go out of their way to recruit Dalits or Tribals.”

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.