Centre moots mechanism to maintain public order

The initiative follows PM`s call for adoption of "non-lethal, effective & more focused" measures in crowd dealing.

Hyderabad: Centre has initiated a "serious process" to put in place an effective mechanism for maintaining public order in the country in the backdrop of a series of incidents of public unrest in the country.

The initiative is in tune with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s call for adoption of "non-lethal, yet effective and more focused" measures in crowd control and dealing with public agitations.

As a step in this direction, a week-long joint workshop on law and order was conducted recently at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, to acquaint field-level law-enforcing authorities with the new policies in the offing, highly-placed official sources said.
It was at the behest of the Prime Minister`s Office the workshop was conducted to draft the measures for modernising police force and making the states responsible for
tackling law and order.

"The thinking has now shifted from law and order to `public order` and the PMO has clearly denoted the Prime Minister`s emphasis on putting in place use-of-force procedures for different situations," the sources said.

Over 30 senior officers from Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy from 16 states attended the workshop that deliberated on a possible plan of action for maintenance of public order, the sources said.
Besides top-ranking bureaucrats from the Government of India and a few states, experts from different fields shared their experiences and expertise with the participants who
implement the policies at the field level.

The ongoing strife in Jammu and Kashmir, violence by outlawed Maoists, unrest over acquisition of land in various states, police firing on protestors in Singur (West Bengal),
Sompeta (Andhra Pradesh) and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), police firing and lathicharge on Telangana activists on Osmania University campus in Hyderabad and the High Court (lawyers` attack) incident in Chennai were some of the case studies at the workshop.

"How to tackle such situations and prevent fatalities was the moot point on which our deliberations focused," a senior official who took part in the workshop said. Since India currently imports non-lethal weapons, the Ordnance Factories in the country have been assigned the task of indigenously developing such gadgets for use in riot situations. The senior official said: "An important proposal that was put forward at the workshop was to constitute an exclusive `Riot Police Unit` in each district. The personnel in such units will be trained specially to tackle mobs both physically and emotionally."
"The Riot Police will be equipped with non-lethal weapons for use in mob control."
Andhra Pradesh`s elite Greyhounds, a specialised police commando force trained and equipped to tackle the Maoist menace, has been cited as a model on which the Riot
Police could be raised.

There was also an elaborate discussion on whether the existing laws (Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code) were sufficient to deal with riot situations or was there a
need to strengthen the legal framework.

IPS officers who participated in the workshop reportedly lamented that it was the police that faces the music in every situation though everything was done "as per the book."
"The first complaint against us is about violation of human rights. And then we face judicial inquiries. In the Chennai incident, it was the police which ultimately had to
take the blame," a top-ranking IPS officer who too attended the workshop said.

The general view that emerged out of the workshop was that instead of making changes as such, certain provisions need to be incorporated in the existing laws to strengthen the
legal framework, the official added.