The Indian police face a reckoning. Milan talks to Vipul Mudgal, the Director of Common Cause, to discuss challenges facing Indian police, their contested role in the COVID pandemic, and a reform blueprint.
The police in India, as in America, face a reckoning. From the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests to the Delhi riots and the COVID pandemic, recent events have raised troubling questions about the quality of Indian policing. In 2019, the non-profit Common Cause and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies issued a report on the “Status of Policing in India.” The report is one of the most comprehensive, empirical examinations of the police on record.
This week on the show, Vipul Mudgal, the Director of Common Cause, joins Milan to discuss the colonial legacy of the Indian police, the personnel and operational challenges ordinary police officers must confront, and the contested role the police have played during the COVID pandemic. Vipul also outlines a reform blueprint for more effective policing.
Programming note: This is the very last episode of Season Three of Grand Tamasha. As usual, we are going to take a little time off this summer to recharge our batteries and prepare for a brand-new season of Grand Tamasha, which we will kick-off at the end of the summer. During this break, please send us your feedback, comments, and criticisms. You can contact us on Twitter @MilanV or email the Grand Tamasha team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Unabashed.” “The most unpredictable,” “becomes a headline.” “The most volatile,” “outrageous behavior.” “Unsubstantiated narratives.” “A battle of personalities.”
Milan Vaishnav 00:12
Welcome to Grand Tamasha. I’m your host Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This is the very last episode of Season 3 of the podcast. As usual, we’re going to take a little time off the summer to recharge our batteries and prepare for a brand-new season of Grand Tamasha, which we will kick off at the end of the summer. During this break, please send us your feedback, your comments, your criticisms, good and bad. You can find me on Twitter @MilanV, or you can email us at Podcasts@ceip.org. Once again, that’s on Twitter @MilanV, or you can email us at Podcasts@ceip.org.
Milan Vaishnav 00:47
But before we take our little summer break, I am very pleased to welcome Vipul Mudgal to the show today for an important conversation about India’s police. Vipul heads the organization Common Cause. This is a New Delhi based civil society watchdog, which promotes democracy, the rule of law, good governance.
Milan Vaishnav 01:05
In 2019 Common Cause, along with several other organizations, issued a report on the status of policing in India. It is possibly one of the most comprehensive empirical examinations of the police on record from the anti-CAA protests to the Delhi riots and the COVID pandemic, recent events have raised fresh questions about the quality of India’s policing. To talk more about the police and their role in Indian democracy, Vipul Mudgal joins me on the phone from Delhi. Vipul, Thanks for coming on the show.
Vipul Mudgal 01:31
Thanks for having me.
Milan Vaishnav 01:33
So, I want to maybe first start by asking you about the organization that you run, Common Cause, which I briefly introduced. As I understand it, you guys celebrated your 40th anniversary this past week. You know, tell us a little bit about the organization’s central mission, how you’re organized, and how - how do you go about fulfilling your mission?
Vipul Mudgal 01:55
Okay, well Common Cause works mainly on probity in public life, and it makes what you can call democratic interventions. We file a lot of PILs, and we also work on governance reforms, particularly police reforms, electoral reforms, and to an extent, judicial reforms. But we are better known for our public interest litigation, you know, initially it was on pensioners’ rights, private blood banks, you know, operations of patients right to die with dignity, you know, IIT compliances of political parties, they were not even filing their income tax returns, etc.
Vipul Mudgal 02:33
So, all that was made possible by common cause public interest litigation, but we are better known by the PILs, which were probably called the you know, the anti-corruption PILs in India, the 2g spectrum case PIL, which we filed in partnership with one or two other organizations and then the allocation of coal. So, in both these, all the allocations were canceled, and the auctions were done again. And it became a norm that, you know, there would be certain parameters on which the auctions will be done. And the spectrum will be given to the highest bidder and not to the cronies of the government. So, you know, the money, which was saved, Milan, to the Exchequer was to the tune of in 2g alone, was something like ten billion US dollars. And in coal, it was 40 billion US dollars. And still counting.
Vipul Mudgal 03:28
But for Common Cause, it was not the money saved it is the fact that no government today or in future can give, you know, precious national resources to their cronies. That is the biggest achievement of Common Cause. So, as you say, you said about, you know, the other things - the police reforms, etc. - that is an ongoing program for a very long time. And if I may say so, this - our PILs were - the ones I mentioned today, 2G and coal and others - were at the time of the last government. But if you see the time this government, you know, the illegal appointment of the CBI director, the appointment of Lokpal, which this government was dithering was done only because the Common Cause pursued it, you know? Then there were cases like Birla-Sahara Papers. And then we challenged along with the Association for Democratic Reforms, the constitutionality of electoral bonds in India, which is still going on.
Vipul Mudgal 04:26
So, I mean, these are the kind of cases we take up, and we also, you know, work on police reforms and governance reforms, and this part, because I have an academic background. I have, personally, I have a Ph.D. from England, and I’ve done a lot of work on statistics, etc. So, I was very keen to do something which is lasting, you know? So, we started working on this, of course, with our partners in this with CSDS and other academic organizations. So, it worked out quite well.
Milan Vaishnav 04:58
So, Vipul, before We get into the meat of the policing report, I want to step back and ask if you could provide our listeners with some historical context, you know, the police force India has today is deeply shaped by the colonial experience. How do we make sense of that, you know, hundreds of years of sort of legacy, how would you characterize it?
Vipul Mudgal 05:21
No, no, it is you’re absolutely right. I mean, they were - basically, they were supposed to work for the rulers of the day and not for the people. And the police were instruments of the powers that be at that time. So, I mean, the no marks for guessing that they were not even an attempt to make it you know, people-centric policing, etc. So, they worked for the rulers, and when after independence, it just changed from the last ruler to the new rulers, and it suited the new rulers to an extent, you know. So, it became - feudalism was strong in the country. So many politicians saw themselves as feudal lords. And they treated the police as their private armies. So, it suited everybody at that time. But obviously, there were demands of a new democratic nation. You know, the demands were actually coming from below. So, I think that change was required, but unfortunately, change was confined to kind of not very, you know, systematic kind of change. Change was happening on a very, very casual basis. And committee after committee was being appointed and nothing was happening.
Vipul Mudgal 06:34
So then came, you know, some court cases, and one of them was a court case in which we were also associated. So, I think it’s an incremental thing. And I think in most other democratic countries, newly kind of independent countries in the 60s and 70s, I think they faced the same problem. So, we were also very aware of the fact that this change will not come because there are vested interests who do not want change to come. And some of them were, like, definitely politicians and others whether, you know, various types of feudal lords.
Milan Vaishnav 07:10
Now, you know, Common Cause has long focused on the rule of law issues concerning police, as you mentioned. It was one of the petitioners in the now-famous Prakash Singh versus Union of India judgment handed down by the Supreme Court in 2006. This was an important moment, I think. Tell us about this case, and how you think it fits into the larger historical evolution of police reform in India.
I must say that Mr. Prakash Singh, who was spearheading this case, is also a governing council member of Common Cause, and he is a hugely public-spirited individual. I mean, he realized that, you know, being a Director General of Police earlier of a state like Uttar Pradesh later of Assam and also of Border Security Force. I mean, he had enough experience in the police to know that some of these things will never change, you know, unless it comes through the route of the judiciary.
So, I, in fact, in this case, it was a very clever case. And I must say that, you know, the court cases are fought on strategies, they are not fought on feelings. You know, while everybody knows that the police are corrupt, the police are not effective, etc., etc. In this case, very specific things were raised. You know, when you say that there is political interference in the workings of the police, then it was suggested, it was you know, we explained how it happens and what should be done. You know? For instance, if there was a demand for there - not a demand, there was a prayer, I must say -for, say, a Security Commission, you know, in which you make it broad-based. Can you get Leader of Opposition and the ruling party together and maybe some other independent people to participate? You know, similarly, the appointments, the tenures, and there were very specific kinds of suggestions given in that, and the court took those, and the court also did its own research. And then finally came up with a landmark judgment, which, you know, which now is remembered, as you rightly said, that the directives, in that case, the seven directives are historical. Unfortunately, they are not implemented in letter and spirit, but they are still very, very important in changing India’s police.
Milan Vaishnav 09:34
So, the Status of Policing in India Report that I want to talk with you about today was issued in 2019. But it builds on an earlier report that you all did, published in 2018. And the 2019 version of the report combines, you know, official data from the government on policing along with survey data that you collected, both from police officials and quite interestingly from their families. Let me first start by asking you about the official data, which is the data provided by the government. You know, one of the puzzles that people, including myself, struggle to understand is why, you know, in India, which is one of the most populous countries in the world with an abundant labor force, nearly 25% or one-quarter of all police posts still stand vacant. How do you begin to understand this vacancy rate?
Vipul Mudgal 10:26
There are two things there. First, let me answer your first part of your question that how was different types of data. You know, the official data is – interestingly, data of all the records of police stations put together. Say, if, in a police station in any village or in any urban center, a First Information Report is filed. That report automatically goes into a central kind of server or a state-level server first and then to a central server, where it is listed that this kind of case has been filed or is being pursued. So, though those cases over time make up a huge number of cases and you have this kind of statistics available on things like, say, crime rates, you know, disposal by police or disposal of cases by the courts. after all a case goes to the court, and it is disposed of it is you know, something or the other happens in it. So, it is a matter of, you know, calculating those cases. Similarly, things like police diversity, how many women are there in a police force? You know, how many members of a scheduled tribe or scheduled caste - India’s like most vulnerable, untouchable, so-called, you know, erstwhile untouchable communities or the tribal communities - how much of their representation is there in the police force? Or the police infrastructure, how many motorcycles are how many cars are being used by them? So, all that data is there in a central server.
Vipul Mudgal 12:00
So, now, somebody has to make sense of that data, you know, prison statistics, how many people are under trials, how many people you know are awaiting bail and stuff like that, you know. So, we thought that because this data is available, sometimes this data can be misleading because you are not able to make sense of it. And I’ll give you an example. Say, they say the highest number of crimes take place in Kerala and Delhi. Now, the fact is that Kerala in Delhi have much less crime compared to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but Uttar Pradesh and Bihar show much less number of crime. But the fact is that the moment you look at it with a clever eye, and you start making statistical sense, and you put in filters, and then you say, Okay, how many - obviously, the number of crimes reported in these two states, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, are higher than Bihar and Uttar Pradesh so how do you segregate that? Say the number of serious crimes per hundred crimes reported, you know? Number how many murders take place per hundred crimes reported, how many armed robberies take place how many abductions take place, and then you come to the conclusion that actually the data shows that the highest number of crimes are in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and lowest you know in Kerala and Delhi.
Vipul Mudgal 13:27
So, you, when you and - we realize that the data is precious, but actually it is showing misleading results, because nobody is applying kind of intelligent statistical filters to that data. So, we thought that rather than junking this data, which is called the Official Data about crime rates at the top, we will use it and try to use it in and in fact, the police officers are now turning around, and they are saying that you’ve actually made a very good you know, sense out of this data.
Vipul Mudgal 13:57
So similarly, then we thought that we will Also have - we will generate our own data. Along with this, this data is time-series data, which is precious. And I mean not to say and I’m not suggesting that this data is foolproof, there are many, many problems with this data, but if you want you can still use this to you know, in policy matters and, and things like that.
Vipul Mudgal 14:20
And the second thing is about the vacancies is that the politicians have a way in which they fill the vacancies in an election year, you will suddenly see you know, 70% vacancies have been filled. And, and for the next five years, they don’t fill in those vacancies. They are not serious about filling the vacancies of women, for instance. They are uh, you know, state after state after state in India has vacancies of scheduled castes, which is the, you know, lower caste communities in India. You know, in states where it is being said, there were rumors that, you know, one Particular OBC Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh failed all the seats of OBCs. And there is a preponderance of OBCs, Other Backward Communities, in the police. But that was not correct. Statistically, we found that the vacancies in the backward sections were much higher than vacancies in general. So, I think there is a way in which the politicians try to make use of, you know, their political mandates and, you know, show it as a favor given rather than as a systemic process.
Milan Vaishnav 15:33
The survey data that you collect from 21 states show that police personnel, on average, work 14 hours a day. One out of every two officers that you spoke with reports working seven days a week with no days off. These realities about service conditions, which you know, I think, are pretty well known. They’re even popularized in film and on television. But tell us how they impact policing on a day to day basis.
Vipul Mudgal 16:00
You see, first of all, the fact is that police in India work seven days. And that ties up with your first question that how you This is the colonial thing. They sent the police duty is 24/7, that police officers have to be awake and be prepared all the time. You know, it was not seen as just another job, it was not seen as you know, these people would also have children, school-going children and they will have you know, their own family problems to sort out, old parents and things like that. So, this I, I would say that twenty states, I think we found except perhaps one Northeastern state, very small state, Nagaland, have an average 11 to 18 hours of working by the police and the highest was in one particular state, in Odisha, was 18 working hours and everything. Now, this can be disputed because they would say this, this is the perception study. In which we have gone to those people, and we have actually, Milan, we’ve been very clever about asking questions we have asked questions as a combination of both What is your perception as well as what is your experience? So many of these are experiential questions in which you say, over the last one week, how many hours have you worked? What time did you come? What time did you leave? So, then you realize that can end on the basis of that, you do the calculation, and you find that people are working 14 hours on an average. But in state after state, it’s actually much more than that.
Vipul Mudgal 17:36
And then you and that is where the family members also come in. You ask the family members, what kind of workload is there and then you ask them, you know, is this person, very tense? Is this person very irritable? Is this person violent? Is this person facing some kind of psychological issues? And then you realize that all those things are very high in police officers.
So, one, it affects them directly, you know, in their family life, in their personal life. And also, it makes them irritable. So if you are working for 14-15 hours and somebody comes to you with a request, you most likely to be standoffish and say that, you know, go wherever, I mean I don’t have time, or if they are very rough with you or irritable. I would say that this is directly affecting police work or if they’re very tardy, and if they’re not very alert, you know, with investigation processes and things like that. So that you know, that has a direct bearing on this. So, we are saying that this is - there are certain norms formed by an organization called BP R&D, The Bureau of Police Research and Development, it’s a government of India Home Ministry organization, they have been saying that they should be you know that they should be capped at eight hours and they should be definitely one day off. But most states in India do not give one day off. Let me tell you, only one state Maharashtra has been given one day off. That, too, not in all districts.
Milan Vaishnav 19:12
You know, one of the most interesting aspects of your study, and you just mentioned it, is that you decided to interview, in addition to the police officers themselves, their family members. And it’s a really interesting design choice actually, as a researcher to think about, tell us about why you made this choice and, reflecting on what you learned, you know, what were some of the major takeaways from talking to the family members of these officers?
Vipul Mudgal 19:39
You know, we - First of all, the family members interviews were conducted inside their homes. And they were, we were very conscious that we will speak to adult family members, and we told them in advance that we would be coming, and they were in many cases we found That they were not very forthcoming. But in this case, when we were asking them questions about their mental pressures, the political pressures on them, their working hours, do they get one day off or not? So, they actually became very sympathetic, and they thought that here is one study which is probably going to help us.
Vipul Mudgal 20:21
And we were very conscious, we were not going on behalf of the government, you know, because we wanted this study to be absolutely independent. So, we took some supporting letters from the Indian Police Foundation, which introduced us, and which said that Common Cause and CSDS both are bona fide organizations. They are known for excellent work on statistics and stuff like that. Please answer their questions.
Vipul Mudgal 20:47
So, when we went to the family members and you ask them specific questions about you know, are they irritable? Are they more likely to get angry at the younger, better was the family, you know? Are they suffering from any mental conditions, health conditions? So, they did not; actually, there was no column for saying that which mental condition it is, but we had certain things. So, they mentioned whether, you know, it is this or that or the other. So, we actually, you know, that kind of questions were asked, and then we were also asking them questions like, you know, if you were given the choice, and you were given the same kind of perks and salaries, would you like to do another profession? Almost 40% of people, 37% more than 37% said that, you know, they would rather do something else. And then, you know, my family members almost about more than 40% of family members said that the police officers are or the, you know, they are not able to spend enough time with their families. So, I think those questions came up. We could have done more with the family members. Actually, we still have some data, but we did not use too much of it. We just kept it on, you know, areas of service conditions. And the family responses were used in areas of service conditions.
Milan Vaishnav 22:15
You know, the role of the police during the COVID crisis that we’re still in both in India and in my own country, the United States, has been deeply upsetting to so many Indians in particular. we’ve seen a great deal of brutality directed towards migrants who are fleeing big metros, trying to make it back by hook or crook to their home villages and towns. How do we understand the kind of violence that we’re seeing? You know, is it a function of poor training, of limited capacity, of, maybe, frustration with being given sort of an impossible task to manage? Is it all of the above? I mean, how do you when you see those scenes, right, on social media, On the nightly news, how do you react? And how do you explain them?
Vipul Mudgal 23:05
You know, in the earlier report that we did, which was the Status of Policing in India Report 2018, which was about the citizens’ trust and satisfaction in the police. We found that more or less, I mean, it was consistent with the global findings that about 65% of people were happy with, kind of satisfied with the police. But when we did, we dissected this remaining section of people who were not so satisfied, particularly 23% of people who were dissatisfied with the police, then we realized they were predominantly poor people, you know? So if you were a schedule tribal from the forested areas of India, and the poorest of poor, then you were more likely to be distrustful of the police. When it comes to the scheduled castes, which is the lower communities, or when it comes to the Muslims, the minorities in India, then you see that the dissatisfaction is high, and the trust is low. So, and the police in that sense is like very, very, what should I say you know, upper-caste oriented. If you were a Brahmin and you were rich, you are likely to be satisfied with the police. You know the class bias is one of the biggest problems that we found in our earlier study.
Vipul Mudgal 24:33
So, now, when you have an emergency like the one we are facing, you know, you see that when they come in contact with the poorest people, you know, they are generally slightly more What should I say brutal, you know with them. So, there they are, but I must also mention here that there was also the human face of police, which came out during this crisis, very often. In fact, a friend of mine who was just passing through some street, and he saw a police officer who stopped his motorcycle. And he took out his own tiffin box, and he gave it to a migrant laborer who was looking hungry, sitting on the pavement. You know, there was another case in which a person’s wife died of COVID, and all his relatives refused to come to take her even to the crematorium. So, the police persons came from the nearest police station, and they took her to the crematorium, and, you know, helped this man. So, you would also see the human side of the police.
Vipul Mudgal 25:42
You know, this was, like, unprecedented crisis, in which the police remained as the only face of the state. You know, the revenue officers were nowhere to be seen, all other types of government functionaries just started working from home. So, the police persons were the only ones left out, and what kind of impossible orders were being given? That, you know, stop people at the border and when you see men, women, old people, you know, being carried in all kinds of things on bicycles, on stretchers on, on, you know, makeshift things, then you realize it was like nobody was prepared to face this kind of crisis. So, they started doing what they know best, you know, using their batons, their lathis. So, I think this was also a failure of the way, you know, the administration functions, And not just the policing.
Milan Vaishnav 26:42
You know, before the COVID crisis began, I know it feels like a long time ago, many Indians were focused on issues of citizenship and belonging given the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the ongoing debate over the idea of implementing I guess an all-India NRC, National Registry of Citizens, we saw violence break out over the course of several days in Delhi during President Trump’s visit there. And in that case, also we saw police actively incite violence, cooperate with mobs, and in many cases, exacerbate or rather than damp and communal tensions. You know, here in the United States, we’re reckoning with systematic, institutionalized racism and the police force. In India, would you go so far as to say there is an institutionalized anti-Muslim or anti-minority ideology within the police forces that needs to be addressed?
Vipul Mudgal 27:37
I wouldn’t say that there is a systematic ideology, it is more or less they work for the party in power, which is a problem. You know, you take your orders from very, very questionable kind of leaders, and then you have the traditional fault lines, you know, like the problems of the police being anti-poor. You know, so, for instance, if you were to see that during this COVID, there were certain areas treated as the red zone and certain areas where, you know, some cases were found So, they actually sealed those colonies completely. Now, if those colonies happen to be of Muslims or of very poor people, then you would not find the kind of cooperation that you would find the police if the same red zone colonies were of the upper caste people. So one is, you know, the traditional fault lines, which are there, the traditional problems with the police remain.
Vipul Mudgal 28:40
And the second is because they take their orders from the politicians in power, then they, you know, tend to act in a certain way now in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, and after that when the communal violence took place, I must save the communal violence. Was like, you know, it like happens all the time, but a spark neglected can actually burn the whole house. So they were, both sides, they were groups of people who were very belligerent, and they came together.
Vipul Mudgal 29:14
But once the spark actually ignited and the riots started, then you started seeing the police being very, very partisan, because they were leaders of the ruling party. You know? There was one particular local leader called Kapil Mishra, there was another Union Minister called Anurag Thakur. I mean, they made incendiary remarks. They were like, very, very openly inciteful, you know, and then, when the police are taking their orders from people like this, then I think there is a problem. Then there were cases like you see a punishment given out to even a functioning judge who gave a favorable order. You know, in favor of some minority community people who were not being shifted to a hospital. So, you know, the police get their cues. They get their, you know, they understand that there is no point messing around. Now, this is what the rulers want you to do, so you better do it this way. But this is not to suggest that they are not communal. They are also communal. So, it’s a deadly combination of the police being anti-poor, communal, and also working under the rulers of the day, who could be actually communal, whose politics could be communal.
Milan Vaishnav 30:37
So, I want to end this conversation by talking about the future. You know, we’ve discussed a lot of the problems with the police, the challenges they face, the hard conditions in which they work. So, let me ask you about solutions. What are some concrete steps you would like to see the government take to tackle the systemic issues, keeping in mind that law and order at the end of the day is a state subject?
Vipul Mudgal 30:59
You know, I would say, Milan, that there are certain things that concern directly the police. And there are many other things which are part of the larger society. Say, if the watermark, you know, the level of the water goes up, then everything which is floating on the water also goes up. So, in that sense, if the atmosphere of transparency and accountability goes up in India, of every government department and everything around us, then probably the police will also fare better.
Vipul Mudgal 31:30
So, I would say that there are two things within the police. I think there are some low hanging fruits, you know, things like diversity. The diversity should be very, very, you know, very, very clearly maintained. The number of women in the police are required to be about 33% in India, and none of the states - 22 out of 22 states - do not have 33% women so, So, you have more diversity of women, same goes for the minorities, you know more people from Muslim community, from Sikh community from all other minority communities, tribals, scheduled castes, if they are represented more in the police, the police would be better. You know, so diversity, I think, is a very important thing.
Vipul Mudgal 32:21
Second is training. We found in our first study that only 7% of police officers received any kind of training, you know? So, they should be training, sensitization, which should be a constant process. You know, and one thing I actually realized in the United States also, that there is a militarization of police going on. You know, when we say they don’t have the equipment, now, we found in our report that equipment when we believe that there should be more equipment, we are talking about the forensic labs. You know, we have we are talking about things which help in investigation. We are not talking About armored vehicles; we are not talking about tanks. So, you know, demilitarize the police, and build their capacities.
Vipul Mudgal 33:08
You know, so some of these things are definitely, you know, they concern the police directly. And, of course, the point about the, you know, freedom from political pressure, we know that almost all police officers face political pressure of some kind or the other, but those are things which concern directly the police. But then there are other things like transparency and accountability, like, you know, some form of social audit, community policing, you know, monitoring of democracy in some way, laws like whistleblower protection, laws like grievance redress, you know, Freedom of Information Act. So, all those things will also be enabling to make the police better.
Milan Vaishnav 33:52
I’m trying to figure out what the role of the central government is. You know, when the Modi government first came to power in 2014, it did so on the backs of promising to reform India’s administrative machinery. There have been several occasions in the past six years where the Prime Minister, some of his top advisors, his cabinet colleagues, have spoken quite eloquently about the need for police reform. You know, after six years, how would you characterize the ruling government’s legacy when it comes to this issue? Are there concrete things that the center can do even if a lot of the implementation has to be done in the state capitals?
Vipul Mudgal 34:32
No, I would describe it as lip service, nothing but lip service. These are all platitudes, semantics, they don’t mean anything. And they are like in that sense, politicians of earlier regimes, you know, the way they are going after journalists’ instance. Journalists having for some flimsy FIR, First Inflation Report, is being filed in one police station, and a journalist of forty-years standing up is just facing the pressure of being arrested. You know, all kinds of things are going on. I mean, the general environment is very, very depressing, actually. And the police reforms, they are not serious about.
Vipul Mudgal 35:15
I would say, you know, for instance, the number of prisoners in the jails in India is only increasing, for instance, things like, you know, overcrowding is one thing, but also over-representation in prisons, of, of people of minority community, over-representation in prison of the most vulnerable people, of the poorest of poor, so nothing has been done to change that. So, I don’t think I would say that whatever they have said about police reforms is only lip service and only to make some brownie points in speeches.
Milan Vaishnav 35:52
So, the last question I have for you is a kind of big picture question about where India stands today. You know, the scholar Francis Fukuyama has argued that modern liberal democracy is built on a foundation of three pillars. You need the rule of law, you need democratic accountability, and you need a capable state. And he argues that India has the first two. It has the rule of law. It has democratic accountability, but it lacks a third, which is a capable state. How would you evaluate India’s standing in the year 2020?
Vipul Mudgal 36:24
I think he’s being charitable to India. I mean, to say that India’s rule of law is - it’s overstating it, I think we have some kind of rule of law, but we are sliding on that. We have accountability, but the erosion of accountability in India is breathtaking. You know, the mean, transparency is every government after government and both state government and the central government are trying to weaken the Freedom of Information Act. We call it RTI, Right to Information Act in India. I mean, they’re just going out of their way to weaken those systems. And of course, the capability of the state is sure, I mean, the capability of the state can always be improved. So, I would say that right now, the biggest challenge for India is to save its institutions, which makes the enabling environment for rule of law and accountability.
Vipul Mudgal 37:24
You know, institutions like the, like the supreme audit agency of the country, the CAG should be independent and autonomous. You know, institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation, which does investigations into corruption cases, institutions like the judiciary. So, I think what is to be watched is the integrity, the institutional integrity of the Government of India, which I call, according to me, is eroding. And I think it is the job of the civil society organizations and intellectual community, perhaps Researchers and academics and think tanks to keep an eye on these things.
Milan Vaishnav 38:06
My guests on the program this week is Vipul Mudgal. Vipul heads Common Cause, which is a New Delhi based civil society watchdog which promotes democracy, the rule of law and good governance and 2019 Common Cause along with several other organizations such as the Center for Study of Developing Society, CSDS, issued a report on the status of policing in India. Vipul, thanks to you and your colleagues for putting out this comprehensive, thorough report. You know, someone like me who appreciates data and works with data, I was really overwhelmed by the amount of data and the uniqueness of some of the data. I mean, the idea of asking family members of police officers, what impact staffing, work stress has on their lives, I thought was a completely new twist. So, we look forward to following your work and hope that you’ll come back on in the future and tell us about the police report of 2020.
Vipul Mudgal 39:03
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me and featuring the State of Policing in India Report. The next one is going to have more interviews with the family members. We’re just hoping that, you know, despite COVID, we are able to go to the police stations and do our work.
Milan Vaishnav 39:18
Grand Tamasha is a co-production of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Hindustan Times. You can find us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to rate and review. It helps others find the show more easily. For more information about the show and to find the writing we referenced on this week’s episode, visit our website, GrandTamasha.com. Production assistance comes from Megan Maxwell and Rachel Osnos. Tim Martin is our audio engineer, and Lauren Dueck is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next week.