#ModiNext3Years: The travails of guiding a rudderless home ministry

The Narendra Modi government came to power riding high on the plank of development, robust foreign, defence and internal security policies, and the 56-inch-chest of the head of the government! The home ministry is one of the fora to prove it.

Unfortunately, the performance of the home ministry has been directionless and rudderless, signifying its quest into the wilderness. As was the case in most times since independence, the home minister does not seem to enjoy the confidence of the prime minister. Inevitably, this affects the image and the working of the ministry, which traditionally has been considered to be the second most important ministry, after the prime minister's office.

(File photo) Home Ministry . Rajnath Singh with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

File photo of Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Month after month, the home ministry has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The work pertaining to the foreign contributions regulation act has been one of the most non-controversial subjects in the ministry so far. Suddenly, the country has woken up to the "conspiracies" hatched by foreign powers and international organisations to malign the government and to bring it in disrepute.

As a result, the Ford Foundation, Green Peace and other organisations dealing with the environment and climate change have been put in the dock. As if India is a third grade, third world country which can be hauled up internationally by these organisations. Such misplaced fears do not signify the confidence of a rising regional power.

The credibility of the central police investigative agencies have taken the worst hit, since the Modi government came to power. In the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, the government blundered by not placing the full facts before the people.

Excessive secrecy has raised serious doubts and questions in the public mind. Reluctance of the government to order an independent probe has not helped in fixing responsibility either. Same is true of the many U-turns taken by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) in the Malegaon bomb blast case.

A supreme court monitored enquiry alone can put to rest the grave questions in the public at large regarding the government's commitment to deal with terrorism, of whatever colour it may be, sternly, expeditiously and apolitically.

The government's decision of permitting the SIT from Pakistan to visit Pathankot for investigation into the terrorist attack has raised serious doubts about the wisdom of the government in handling such a sensitive issue.

Normally, such a visit should have been agreed to only on the basis of reciprocity. But, apparently there was no such understanding. From all indications, the proposal was never put before the political affairs committee or the security committee of the cabinet for approval. This raises serious questions about the decision-making processes in the government.

Considering the multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-lingual character of the country, it has been the endeavour of the central government to ensure that minorities are given adequate representation in the police forces.

An outstanding example of this is the rapid action force of the central government which is invariably provided to the states affected by communal riots. Its multi-religious character has gone a long way in inspiring a sense of confidence among the people.

The central government has been publishing the figures of recruitment of minorities in the police forces of the states and the centre regularly so far. It was only in 2015 that the government asked the national crime records bureau to discontinue this practice.

This is counter-productive and has created an impression that the government has been majoritarian in its thinking. This is a wrong message and can do a great deal of harm.

Attention must also be invited to the wide-spread misuse of the provisions pertaining to the sedition law by the Centre and the state governments. These provisions, which were incorporated by the British government to curtail heavy-hand agitations against the government, are the anti-thesis of democratic governance in the country.

It is high time that these provisions are repealed. Instead, the home ministry has asked the Delhi police to launch cases against student leaders in JNU and other universities on charges of sedition. This is clearly short-sighted. One would have expected home ministry to take a broader and more mature view on the subject.

There is a misperception that the central government and the Aam Aadmi government in Delhi are at loggerheads on every issue. The provisions of the act giving statehood to Delhi are primarily responsible for the situation. Its provisions are clearly unworkable. One would have expected the home ministry to review the act to find a workable solution to the problems. But, the home ministry has taken no such steps to resolve the matter.

Finally, the high-handed, and often borderline unlawful, functioning of the police has become a matter of serious concern. It is unfortunate that the directions of the Supreme Court on the restructuring of the police departments in the states and the Centre have still not been acted upon fully, though a decade has elapsed since they were issued.

The replacement of the archaic police act of 1861 is yet to be addressed. Unless a long-range view is taken in the matter, and vigorous remedial actions are taken, the country will continue to fire-fight operations on a day-to-day basis.

The author is a former home secretary and secretary, justice, government of India.

Updated Date: May 26, 2016 07:43 AM

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