Swapnil Bharali caught up with Additional Director General of Police (Security & Modernisation), Harmeet Singh (IPS) at his residence to understand the state’s police system better. Presenting excerpts from the conversation.
What exactly does modernisation of police mean?
When earlier people spoke of modernisation of the police they would only look at adding some technology, some equipment and so and so. You cannot modernise with just equipment and buildings and uniforms and weapons. We are going in for an entire soft skilling programme so that the policeman on the ground can provide much better citizen-centric delivery of services to the people.
How does Assam Police compare with police from say, New Delhi or Mumbai?
I will give you one example which is not a normal policing example. A few months ago at around 11:30 at night we got an information from Facebook saying that a girl somewhere in Assam has written on her Facebook that she is going to commit suicide. Within 30 minutes - she was in a rural area - the girl was traced, the police reached her family, she was counselled and the family was counselled and we were happy we saved a life. So, technology, human skill, empathy all came together to save a precious life.
Can you explain the other side of your responsibility which is security?
Let's not talk only of the word “security” because it encompasses both safety and security. We actually got a commendation from FIFA for being the best, safe and secure stadium in the country. The FIFA headquarters sent a message and said that Assam or rather Guwahati is the only incident-free stadium vis-à-vis the entire FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Whether it is big events, whether it was Advantage Assam - the global summit or the safety of individuals or the safety of our oil and power installations, that's what security encompasses.
You are currently running a very creative social media campaign. Who is doing it? Is there an agency involved?
There are a couple of designers from Delhi who help out. I do a lot of the copywriting myself and the conceptualisation. There are couple of others who come in and out and help us. They tell me you are like those old editors, from the old days. So, it's actually a joint effort. The Think Campaign was started with the Think Before You Post series. That was the first one that was picked up and got national traction. Then came Think Before You Stalk and we carried on. We have done fake news, cyber security, women’s security. We have done cyber security particularly with attention to children, cyber bullying. We work basically on three aspects: sensitisation, ensuring law and order which involves getting information from people and handling public grievances.
What is the Assam Police doing to tackle cyber crime?
We have boys at the Guwahati Crime Branch who are trained for this. We have some projects with the Central Government agencies which we are working on. I cannot give you the details as these are operationally sensitive.
What is the strength of the Assam police and how many are attached to VIP duties?
A lot of our manpower goes into protecting vital installations. Shortage of manpower does not mean that they are deployed on providing security to someone. That’s actually not true. People to police ratio in our country is much less than the rest of the world which is why there are two initiatives of the government: one is step up recruitment and second it to set up a world-class facility. Because when you recruit you need to train.
What can the man on the street expect and hope from Assam Police?
Better delivery of citizen services, making use of CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System) platform more open so more people know about it. We are bringing in an emergency response system that should be up by the middle of next year. So, the whole idea is to be able to be available to the public as much as we can.
How about making the police station more approachable?
That's what Moitri is all about. The Moitri police stations, apart from having facilities for the policemen, will actually have a reception area. You will have a sitting area for people when they come in. There will be a children's corner as well. The ladies’ entry will be separate. These are all mandated parts. These police stations will be cleanliness-wise upgraded, they will have landscaping and water harvesting. This is all work under progress and given our weather conditions it takes times to construct something. Moitri is a five year project and we have completed a year so far. After all we have more than 340 police stations, so it will be done phase by phase.