#India – Police Reforms that never came


The Hindu , April 4, 2013

“Animal behaviour,” was the unusual language the Supreme Court deployed recently. The context for the cryptic remarks was the gruesome lathi-charge on protesting teachers, predominantly women, engaged on contract by the Bihar government, and the attacks on a woman who sought police intervention in a case of assault. The police carry a long and ignominious record of resort to indiscriminate force to quell peaceful protesters, which peaked in the public outrage over the Delhi gang-rape and the death of a journalist in Manipur in 2012. Often, the aims of the political masters the police serve are diametrically opposed to the public interest they are duty-bound to protect in a democracy. The judges were perfectly justified in ventilating their impatience, having issued notice after notice in the past to Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police for greater accountability. In a landmark 2006 verdict, the Supreme Court came out with its now famous seven steps to police reforms. Insulation of the force from illegitimate political interference, transparency in the appointment of the DGP, separation of the law and order and investigative functions and the establishment of a complaints authority are the more important among them. They still remain on paper. Most of these recommendations have been the sum and substance of the eight reports of the National Police Commissions constituted by successive governments over the years. They were further reiterated by two committees set up in the 1990s on police reforms and embodied in the Model Police Act proposed to replace the colonial law of 1861.

Court hearings on compliance with the seven steps were met with requests and more requests for extension of deadlines, ultimately leading to contempt proceedings against some State governments. It is noteworthy that regional parties which have been repeatedly elected to office over the past few decades have demonstrably failed to live up to their avowedly federal and democratic credentials. Since police and law and order are subjects under the Constitution’s State List, the responsibility devolves upon the States. Thus, the prospects for the enactment of a modern police law nearly seven decades after independence hang in the balance. Genuine lessons from the dark record of Emergency rule, encapsulated in the Shah Commission findings and the reports produced by the National Police Commissions of the late 1970s, have not been drawn. This is the bitter truth, one that no political party is willing to admit nearly four decades since the so-called restoration of democracy in India

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#India- Acute shortage of mental health care staff #humanresources


      SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu Jan 14, 2013

India faces an acute shortage of mental health care professionals, including psychiatrists, considering the high prevalence of mental health disorders.

Studies suggest that approximately 13 per cent of the entire population may actually be suffering from some kind of mental disorder — 10 per cent with minor ailments such as stress, anxiety and depression while the remaining with serious disorders such as schizophrenia. Alcoholism and psychotropic addiction are also included in this.

According to a Mental Health Survey carried out by the Directorate General of Health Services in 2002, there were only about 2,219 psychiatrists in the country, against the required 9,696. The number of clinical psychologists was 343, against the desired 13,259. Similarly, psycho-social workers available were only 290, against the required 19,064, while the number of psychiatric nurses was not available, though over 4,000 such trained nurses were required then. Also, while there were about 21,000 beds for mental health patients in the government sector, the number was just about 5,100 in the private sector.

The country has 43 government mental health facilities, though a huge number of private facilities, known as psychiatric nursing homes, have come up. Delhi alone has 16 such facilities. The State governments are authorised to register these private facilities.

The number of psychiatrists and nurses may have marginally gone up since then and the number of patients too would have gone up substantially.

“I think we need to address mental health issues, both by addressing demand for and supply of services, and by services I mean evidence-based medical and psycho-social interventions that can address a wide range of mental health problems, including their prevention,” said Dr. Vikram Patel, eminent mental health expert and Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

This required multiple actions, from awareness building in communities and in the health workforce, to the creation of new community-based human resources skilled in providing psycho-social interventions and building capacity of primary health workers for delivery of medical interventions, he told The Hindu.

There is a huge debate going on in the country over the nature of treatment that must be provided to people with mental disorders. While a majority believes it should be home and community based — considering the condition of mental homes and public facilities — there are others who believe institutional care is also required, particularly for women, as people with mental health issues are often disowned by families and hence vulnerable to exploitation.

 

Stop criminalising protests against KNPP


EDITORIAL, The Hindu
April 6, 2012

Don’t lose the plot now

The continuing efforts to criminalise protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and portray all opposition to nuclear energy as anti-national must be unequivocally condemned. For over seven months, a popular protest, with wide public participation, went on in the vicinity of Kudankulam without a single incident of violence. An indefinite fast against the Tamil Nadu government‘s decision to facilitate the commissioning of the plant has now been given up, but low-key protests continue. The government has managed to get the project going again after months of inactivity. Yet, the State has shown no compunction in invoking drastic legal provisions — such as those relating to waging war against the government, and sedition — against key participants in the agitation. The police in Tamil Nadu are preparing formally to lay serious charges against those perceived to have “instigated” the anti-nuclear agitation; the only concession they seem to make to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India is to promise that those who ‘innocently’ participated in the protests will not be prosecuted. Regardless of one’s opinion about the desirability of nuclear power, the imputation that organising protests against a nuclear plant amounts to waging war on the State or promoting disaffection against the government has no place in a democracy.

Non-governmental organisations linked to the protesters are facing a probe about whether foreign contributions meant for charity were diverted to fund the agitation. This may be explained as a legitimate exercise by the Union Home Ministry, which regulates the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. However, the spate of arrests by the State police and the plan to prosecute protesters under extraordinary provisions of the law give the impression of a witch hunt. Also disturbing is the tendency to seek to demonstrate that ‘extremists’ or ‘Maoists‘ have infiltrated the protests. A government that went out of the way to ensure peace during the prolonged agitation and which gave a necessary pause to the project until its full implications were explained to the public should not lose the plot now and waste its energies on pursuing the prosecution of protesters, be they the ones derisively dubbed “professional agitators” or those supposedly duped into participating in agitations. The larger issue of keeping the people on board always and allaying fears about safety is a long-term obligation that the Central and State governments cannot evade. Nothing can be more perverse than pursuing punitive measures used by colonial rulers in the pre-Independence era to repress democratic protests against the decisions and policies of elected governments.

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