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Maharashtra polls: Advocacy groups want police reforms, representation to women, SCs, STs, minorities

By Our Representative
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Delhi, and Police Reforms Watch (PRW), Mumbai, will be launching an eighteen-day campaign on September 26 in order to “catalyze” voters in Maharashtra, and especially in the city of Mumbai, to “vote for a representative and a party that commits to and is vested in better policing in the state.” In a statement, the two advocacy groups have said, this is being done ahead of the state elections, scheduled on October 15, in order to “blow the whistle for police reforms in Maharashtra.”
The programmes contemplated include a 19 seconds cinema slide in 56 cinema halls four times a day starting on September 26, and ending on October 10, 2014 in 56 cinema halls of Mumbai where. Especially designed by the two NGOs, each slide has a message with the catch phrase 'I am Mumbai...’ A second programme is radio messages which will go live between October 6 and 13, 2014 on three FM radios -- Radio City (91.1) , Radio Fever (104) and Big FM-92.7. The message asks “Mango, Mango, Mango Kaun Dega Sacha Police Sudhar...” (demand, who will deliver police reforms?).
Then there will be a campaign on social media on similar lines. A Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FixPolicingNow already exists, with more than 51,000 followers. Proposing to turn it into “a platform for healthy debates and discussions” ahead of the Maharashtra polls, the NGOs says, it will “gear towards crystallizing public opinion online for better policing in Maharashtra for the upcoming polls.”
A major hallmark of the campaign, said the NGOs, is the whistle. Every message whether radio or the cinema Slides begins with the sound of whistle and also ends with it. Asking people to “come and join us in our campaign for making policing an issue in the forthcoming Maharashtra polls”, it wants voters to "blow the whistle in favour of police reforms".
The campaigners have launched a website, www.policereformswatch.org which will go live on September 27, 2014, and provide details of all the activities for 18 days. Meanwhile, they have drafted a people's manifesto for better policing, titled “Ten Giant Steps to Police Reforms in Maharashtra”, which they want the political parties in the fray to commit to, if they are truly vested in better policing.
The manifesto insists on the need to “prioritize the recruitment of women, minorities and scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs).” It says, “Maharashtra has the highest number of women police, yet it is still to fulfil the Centre’s directive of 33% reservation of women in the police. Police personnel from SCs represent only 11.09% of the police, when the reservation is 13%. Likewise, other backward classes (OBCs) constitute only 11.16% when the actual reservation is 19%. Since there is no data available on the percentage of minorities, we urge the parties to make the representation of minorities in the police a priority issue”.
The police reforms demanded by the NGOs include setting up a woman and child protection desk staffed by women police personnel to record complaints of crimes against women and children; demand to comply with the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) advisories and standing orders on crimes against women; need to separate investigation from the law and order functions; adoption of eight hour duty norm in the civil police; end of misuse of police personnel for non-policing work; and prohibition of ill-treatment and custodial torture.
The manifesto wants repeal of the Maharashtra Police (Amendment and Continuance) Act, 2014, as it allegedly “dilutes and circumvents the Supreme Court order on police reforms”. In fact, it says, the Act was “passed without much debate and discussion when the house was not full.” It insists on the need to a new police Act for the state that would “incorporate element of good policing with active consultations with people from all walks of life from all over the state.”
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Click HERE for text of the manifesto

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