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National-Level Agencies

The constitution assigns responsibility for maintaining law and order to the states and territories, and almost all routine policing--including apprehension of criminals--is carried out by state-level police forces. The constitution also permits the central government to participate in police operations and organization by authorizing the maintenance of the Indian Police Service. Police officers are recruited by the Union Public Service Commission through a competitive nationwide examination. On completion of a nationwide basic public-service course, police officer candidates attend the National Police Academy at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. They are then assigned to particular state or union territory forces, where they usually remain for the rest of their careers. About 50 percent of the officers are regularly assigned to states or territories other than their own in an effort to promote national integration.

The constitution also authorizes the central government to maintain whatever forces are necessary to safeguard national security. Under the terms of the constitution, paramilitary forces can be legally detailed to assist the states but only if so requested by the state governments. In practice, the central government has largely observed these limits. In isolated instances, the central government has deployed its paramilitary units to protect central government institutions over the protest of a state government. During the Emergency of 1975-77, the constitution was amended (effective February 1, 1976) to permit the central government to dispatch and deploy its paramilitary forces without regard to the wishes of the states (see The Rise of Indira Gandhi, ch. 1). This action proved unpopular, and the use of the paramilitary forces was controversial. After the Emergency was lifted, the constitution was amended in December 1978 to make deployment of central government paramilitary forces once again dependent on the consent of the state government. According to apologists for the central government, this amendment prevented the government from sending in paramilitary forces to protect the Babri Masjid (Babri Mosque) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in December 1992 (see Public Worship, ch. 3).

The principal national-level organization concerned with law enforcement is the Ministry of Home Affairs, which supervises a large number of government functions and agencies operated and administered by the central government. The ministry is concerned with all matters pertaining to the maintenance of public peace and order, the staffing and administration of the public services, the delineation of internal boundaries, and the administration of union territories.

In addition to managing the Indian Police Service, the Ministry of Home Affairs maintains several agencies and organizations dealing with police and security. Police in the union territories are the responsibility of the Police Division, which also runs the National Police Academy and the Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science. The Central Bureau of Investigation investigates crimes that might involve public officials or have ramifications for several states. The ministry also is the parent organization of the Border Security Force.

State and Other Police Services

The Police Act of 1861 established the fundamental principles of organization for police forces in India, and, with minor modifications, continues in effect. Consequently, although state-level police forces are separate and may differ in terms of the quality of equipment and resources, their patterns of organization and operation are markedly similar.

An inspector general, answerable to the home secretary of the state, heads each state, union territory, or national capital territory police force. Under the inspector general are a number of police "ranges" composed of three to six districts, headed by deputy inspectors general. District police headquarters are commanded by superintendents. District superintendents have wide discretionary powers and are responsible for overseeing subordinate police stations as well as specialty elements, such as criminal investigation detachments, equipment storehouses and armories, and traffic police. Many large districts also have several assistant district superintendents.

Most preventive police work is carried out by constables assigned to police stations. Depending on the number of stations there, a district may be subdivided and, in some states, further divided into police "circles" to facilitate the supervision from district headquarters. Most of the major metropolitan areas such as New Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras have separate municipal forces headed by commissioners. Police in the states and union territories are assisted by units of volunteer Home Guards, maintained under guidelines formulated by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In most states and territories, police forces are functionally divided into civil (unarmed) police and armed contingents. The former staff police stations, conduct investigations, answer routine complaints, perform traffic duties, and patrol the streets. They usually carry lathis --bamboo staffs weighted or tipped with iron.

Contingents of armed police are divided into two groups, the district armed police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary. The district armed police are organized along the lines of an army infantry battalion. They are assigned to police stations and perform guard and escort duties. Those states that maintain distinct armed contingents employ them as a reserve strike force for emergencies. Such units are organized either as a mobile armed force under direct state control or in the case of district armed police (who are not as well equipped) as a force directed by district superintendents and generally used for riot-control duty.

The Provincial Armed Constabulary (Pradeshik) is an armed reserve maintained at key locations in some states and active only on orders from the deputy inspector general and higher-level authorities. Armed constabulary are not usually in contact with the public until they are assigned to VIP duty or assigned to maintain order during fairs, festivals, athletic events, elections, and natural disasters. They may also be sent to quell outbreaks of student or labor unrest, organized crime, and communal riots; to maintain key guard posts; and to participate in antiterrorist operations. Depending on the type of assignment, the Provincial Armed Constabulary may carry only lathis .

At all levels, the senior police officers answer to the police chain of command and respond to the general direction and control of designated civilian officials. In the municipal force, the chain of command runs directly to the state home secretary rather than to the district superintendent or district officials.

Working conditions and pay are poor, especially in the lower echelons of the police forces. Recruits receive only around Rs1,900 per month (about US$64). Opportunities for promotion are limited because of the system of horizontal entry into higher grades. Allegations of bribery, attributable to the low pay and poor working conditions, have been widespread.

Since the late 1980s, women have entered in larger numbers into the higher echelons of the Indian police, mostly through the Indian Police Service system. Women police officers were first used in 1972, and a number of women hold key positions in various state police organizations. However, their absolute numbers, regardless of rank, are small. Uniformed and undercover women police officers have been deployed in New Delhi as the Anti-Eve Teasing Squad, which combats sexual harassment against women ("Eves"). Several women-only police stations have also been established in Tamil Nadu to handle sex crimes against women.

Police uniforms vary widely according to grade, region, and kind of duty performed. Among the armed police, uniforms tend to resemble army dress rather than conventional police uniforms. The khaki uniforms of the Indian Police Service officers are similar in all states, but headgear varies widely, especially among metropolitan areas.

Data as of September 1995

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