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It is more than 150 years since the Police Act came into force. The story of our police forces during this period is marked by countless examples of courage, valour, and sacrifice. Thousands of our policemen and women have laid down their lives in the performance of the duty. I join you all in paying homage to all these gallant persons.
I am happy to announce that to mark the completion of 150 years of policing in India, a commemorative medal will be awarded to all policemen who were on duty between March 2011 and February 2012.
Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have been awarded medals today. I hope to see their high standards emulated in large numbers in the future.
Today is the concluding day of this very important conference. I am sure you have had useful and productive discussion on many issues that critically concern the police forces of our country. I would add to your deliberations by flagging some points that I feel you should consider carefully.
The ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in our country is a source of strength and vitality to India. We must therefore, continue to strengthen the thread of unity running through our variegated societal landscape. It is in this context that the increase in the communal incidents in the country in the past few months and the revival of ethnic tensions in the North East in recent weeks have been particular causes of concern to all of us. The ethnic disturbances of the North East assumed a national dimension with the flight of people belonging to the North East from various towns of South and Western India. This further strained the communal situation in the country, which was already showing some signs of deterioration, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
The erosion in inter-community relations is something that should worry us all. The capacity of the administrative set-up to check such deterioration seems to have weakened. This would be true of the police administration as well. There is, therefore, a case for re-orienting our police forces to effectively track the sentiments of the people and inter-community tensions as they rise. Advance identification of potential trouble makers, timely use of preventive sections of the law, alongside seeking cooperation of the community for maintaining peace should be the first instruments to be deployed, well before the situation deteriorates. It is particularly important to obtain assistance of saner elements of the society to marginalise those who are overtly intolerant and aggressive. We must train our police personnel to develop these soft skills. The grassroots information and intelligence collection systems that have traditionally been a part of policing have languished in some places. The role of a vigilant and effective beat constable can be vital in detecting communal tensions. I hope you would pay adequate attention to these aspects of policing.
The use of bulk SMSes and social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge that the recent disturbances have thrown before us. We need to fully understand how these new media are used by miscreants. We also need to devise strategies to counter the propaganda that is carried out by these new means. Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate. I am sure that in the coming months our police forces would be able to work out effective strategies to deal with these tendencies.
The ability of Left wing extremists to gradually increase their numbers, enhance their 'military potential', and entrench themselves in some areas of the seven affected States in the country is and should be a cause of worry. Acquisition of indigenous capacity for fabrication of hardware and the ability to ideologically sway sections of society into raising a clamour about violation of human rights only adds to the complexity of the situation. The Para-Military Forces have to play an important role in minimising the loss of lives due to the use of Improvised Explosive Devices and preventing the exploitation of inter-State boundaries by Left Wing Extremists. The State police forces on their part must ensure that Left Wing Extremists that are apprehended are prosecuted quickly and effectively.
The Left Wing Extremists affected States also need to improve the police-population ratio, strengthen police infrastructure and equip their police forces with better weapons, better communication systems and better training.
In Jammu and Kashmir, we are beginning to see increasing infiltration attempts, across the Line of Control and even the International Border. There are also indications about terrorist groups maintaining their ability to use the sea route. Vigilance, therefore, needs to be exercised not only on our land borders but along the coast line as well. The comprehensive scheme of Maritime Domain Awareness to be led by the Navy would help strengthen coastal vigilance, whereas deployment of more permanent border obstacles and better sensors could improve the situation along the land borders. Notwithstanding recent pressure for infiltration into Jammu & Kashmir, the collaborative efforts of Police and Security Forces have led to a significant decline in the number of operating terrorists as also in terrorist violence in the State of the Jammu and Kashmir. Improvement in the security environment resulted in a successful Amarnath Yatra this year and in a record number of tourists visiting the state. The State has also successfully conducted the Panchayat elections and is now poised to take up the responsibility of conducting elections to the Urban Local Bodies.
But the threat from terrorism in the hinterland continues to be a cause for worry. Although 19 interdictions have taken place, terrorists were able to strike in Mumbai and Delhi last year and in Pune this year. Investigations in these cases are yet to conclude. We are still in the process of developing capabilities to take pre-emptive action in respect of terrorist threats. Realignment of operational approaches, training of police personnel and more effective collaboration among States and between States and the Centre should form part of our overall strategy of dealing with the menace of terrorism.
While addressing this conference on earlier occasions, I had emphasized upon the need for filling up all existing vacancies in our police forces and their adequate training. It is in this context that I am happy to know that 3.9 lakh Police and Central Armed Police Forces personnel have been recruited in the last 30 months and 6.35 lakh have been trained. But more efforts need to be made by the States to fill the vacancies.
Police leaders should also dedicate themselves to planned technological upgradation of their forces. There are many emerging areas where our police forces need to develop new expertise. I have already mentioned the use of new media by miscreants to spread rumours and falsehood. Another such area is our cyber-security. Our country's vulnerability to cyber crime is escalating as our economy and critical infrastructure become increasingly reliant on interdependent computer networks and the internet. Large-scale computer attacks on our critical infrastructure and economy can have potentially devastating results. The Government is working on a robust cyber security structure that addresses threat management and mitigation, assurance and certification, specially building capacity and enhancing research. To this end, we need to build partnerships between Government, academia and the private sector.
There is a feeling that violence against women and the elderly is growing in the metropolitan cities. I have touched on the subject in my addresses in the preceding years as well. Maintaining a secure environment in our cities requires special skills built around our knowledge of technology, economics and sociology. Therefore, policing the metropolitan areas, especially controlling the organized crime and protecting the vulnerable in these areas requires the focused attention of our police forces.
These are a few thoughts which I wish to share with you. I wish you all the very best in your efforts for ensuring the Rule of Law in our country and a safe, secure and peaceful environment for all our citizens.