Bites from the classroom: Part 2

Genetics and epigenetics
By Sathish Selvakumar, GCPP-9

Altering the context in which action occurs is the most significant outcome of the five strategies for reinventing government, as proposed by Osborne and Plastrik in Banishing Bureaucracy.  These strategies do not just alter the government’s DNA, but also create conditions for new expressions of existing DNA. They are therefore are a combination of “Genetic” and “Epigenetic” interventions.  This understanding is critical to know in what situations, change of the various elements of a structure are required, and in what situations changes are required in the entire system by which an organisation operates: how it views itself, projects itself to the outside world, and manages external expecations.  Understanding the epigenetic nature of transformation also breaks the notion that all significant change requires a lot of time to manifest.

We all understand the “genetic” nature of change, where a change to the DNA sequence causes a different expression.  There is an emerging aspect of biology – epigenetics – that studies changes to cellular and physiological traits that are not dependent on the DNA sequence.  The books, The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce H Lipton and Genie in your Genes by Dr. Dawson Church are excellent primers to the science of epigenetics.  One way I understand the importance of epigenetics is that when the human genome project was started, they expected to find about 100,000 genes as there were that many proteins getting generated in the human body.  It turns out that the final count was less than 20,500 and the count is not very different than that of common mice.  The varied expression of the same gene in different environmental conditions explains this “shortfall” of human genes.

This line of inquiry started for me when I went to the Deputy Resident Commissioners’ office in Guwahati to apply for an Inner Line Permit.  The absolute disdain with which I was treated appalled me.  If I look at the people there as a product of the system rather than them being bad eggs themselves, then replacing the person may not be the solution.  Changing the person would be similar to changing the DNA sequence.  Whereas, if the purpose of their organisation was clear to them, and if outcomes that determined their promotions were altered, the same human beings will exhibit or express different behaviours.  These behaviours will in turn produce more of the results that the citizens and government want.  This is “epigenetic” change.

Determining who steers and who rows and changing the institutional design is genetic change.  Altering how the staff see the purpose of the organisation is epigenetic change.

 

The state of the police and the need for reforms
By Sandesh Anand, GCPP-9

There is little doubt that our police force today is archaic – based on British era laws – and in urgent need of reform. Commission after commission have “recommended” various kinds of reform. Even the supreme court has jumped in and pushed state governments to act. Yet, comprehensive reform seems elusive. This blog will look at some of the many issues facing Indian police forces, particularly manpower.

The topic of police reform itself is vast. Some of the issues that need to be considered when understanding the problems with the police force are budget allocations to the police, corruption (perhaps as a possible side effect of lack of reform), and tasks performed by the police which are not part of their mandate, like “Passport verification” and “VIP protection”. It is also important to think about how civil society can help realise police reform, and about for whom reforms should be made – to make life easier for the people or the police. Interestingly, India does not feature on any “top crime rate” listed countries. While there may be many reasons for this, one of the reasons may be that in many cases, the police simply refuse to file an FIR, because of which there is no record of many complaints.

One of the other major issues facing Indian police forces is manpower. Let’s take the example of Karnataka. Primarily due to the growth of Bangalore city, the population in Karnataka has sky rocketed. However, our police force is not able to scale at the same rate. The below graph shows that the police per lakh population ratio has been dipping for a few years now in the state of Karnataka (Source: Bureau of Police Research and Development).

PolicePerLakh

 

Before we jump to the popular “Oh, there are too many people in Bangalore” argument, take a look at the data for the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu as well as the national average. It is apparent that the curve is similar. The fact is that our manpower (as compared to growth in population) has dipped in the last decade or so.

PolicePerLakh k vs TN vs national

Note: In both cases, the number of policemen per lakh is for “actual police strength” (not allocated) including armed and civilian police force.

Talking globally, according to this list, India ranks 49th in the world in police per 1 Lakh people ratio. While this metric alone certainly does not provide an insight into the effectiveness of our police force, it is telling that most of Western Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy), The United States and better policed countries in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea) are all ahead of India on that list.

According to the data in BPRD, we have consistently recruited below the “allocated” force nationally. Perhaps this means that one of our major areas of focus should be to increase manpower. Therefore, another issue to think about is whether the police force is unable to recruit effectively and why.

Sandesh Anand and Sathish Selvakumar are students of Takshashila’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy. This post is part of a series of opinion snippets. The views expressed here are the authors’.

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