One Nation, One Police in the offing? NSC letters to states raise suspicion

The National Security Council secretariat, in two back-to-back letters, asked director-generals of police of all the states to inform it about the design and colour of uniform and cap being used by the respective state’s law enforcing forces

Though the NSC’s communiqué to states did not clearly mention the purpose for seeking the information, sources said it could be for implementation of a standard uniform for cops across the country. Pic: iStock

A set of seemingly harmless information sought by the Centre recently from state police chiefs has sparked concerns about the prospect of New Delhi pushing for the one-nation, one-police concept.

The National Security Council (NSC) secretariat, in two back-to-back letters, asked director-generals of police of all the states to inform it about the design and colour of uniform and cap being used by the respective state’s law enforcing forces. Besides, it has asked for information about insignia and other symbols being used by the police forces of various states.

In West Bengal, police wear white uniform and not the customary khaki. Recently a few states have also brought in some changes in the police uniform to suit their climatic conditions.

Changes in uniforms over years

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This February, Odisha police discontinued wearing “tunic uniform” and the cross belt. Maharashtra police too has asked its officers from the rank of sub inspector to deputy superintendent of police to do away with the practice of wearing the British-era overcoat to minimise expenses and also discomfort of the personnel. Two years ago, the Maharashtra police also adopted Pantone 18-1022 TCX as the standard shade of khaki for all police uniforms to have a common colour code.

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In 2017, the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, submitted to the Centre nine prototypes of smart, all-weather designer uniforms for police. The set of uniforms designed in collaboration with the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) include shirts, trousers, belts, berets, insignia, shoes, jackets, rainwear and headgears.

Though the NSC’s communiqué to states did not clearly mention the purpose for seeking the information, sources in the Bengal state police said it could be for implementation of a standard uniform for cops across the country.

Sceptical states

The NSC had first sent the letter on May 2. But as most states, including many BJP-ruled ones and also opposition states like West Bengal, did not furnish the information, NSC joint secretary Kundan Krishnan reportedly sent a reminder on May 24, asking the DGPs to  respond.

Most states did not respond to the May 2 letter either, sources said, because they were sceptical about the purpose for seeking such information.

“The BJP-led Centre has a penchant for enforcing homogeneity and hence the worry,” said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.

The states have reasons to be guarded. The Union Home Ministry recently constituted a committee to review the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, without consulting the state governments even as law-and-order is a state subject.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its recent reports also recommended that the Ministry discuss the matter with all the stakeholders including the states.

Curtailing state powers?

The suspicion further deepens as the information is sought at a time when suggestions are for government advisors to curtail the power of the states in dealing with police forces. Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, Bibek Debroy, earlier this month, advocated shifting the police from the State List to the Concurrent List while arguing for much-needed police reforms.

The NITI Aayog reportedly made the same suggestion in 2016.

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Police reforms, the Home Ministry often argues, cannot be implemented as many states are yet to adopt/implement the Model Police Act to create a uniform police structure across the country.

The Centre reviewed the Model Police Act, 2006 and came up with its own draft Model Police Bill in 2015 for implementation by states. According to the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s recent report, only 17 states either enacted the Model Police Act or amended their existing act based on the model.

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