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Safe Cities in Karnataka – exchange and cooperation between citizens, police and government

In cooperation with the government of the Bavarian partner state Karnataka, Hanns Seidel Stiftung India and the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission organized a conference on "Safe City" in Bangalore on 17 and 18 April 2017.

Dr. P.M. Nair, IPS (retd.); Brinda Adige, Director NGO Global Concerns India; Dr. Susanne Luther, Director Institute for International Cooperation, HSF; Meera Saksena, Chairwoman Karnataka State Human Rights Commission; R. K. Dutta, DG & IGP, Karnataka State Police; Volker L. Plän, Resident Representative, HSF India

The conference on 17 and 18 April served as the basis for a thorough exchange on "Safe City": How is ‘security’ perceived in the departments? What are the problems in the cities of Karnataka? Which solutions can help?

It was especially one topic which had been brought to the fore: the security of vulnerable groups such as women, children and elderly people. As long as members of this group – which are more than two thirds of the population – cannot feel safe, one should not speak of a "smart city", as Margit Hellwig-Bötte, German Consul General for Karnataka and Kerala, emphasized. Although the government’s efforts had been commendable, the challenges for the authorities continue to grow further. With about six percent of women in the police force, Karnataka is still far from its own target of twenty percent. Consul General Hellwig-Bötte, however, also took the population into its promise: it was ideal behaviour and responsibility by its citizens, which provided a city with a feeling of security.

Consul General Hellwig-Bötte: "society has a big responsibility of boosting values and good morale"

Dr. G. Parameshwara, Minister of Home of Karnataka, sees city and country on a good path but mentioned issues which still required to be tackled. The ongoing growth of Bangalore comes with a number of challenges, which – if not systematically dealt with – threaten to let the city lose its reputation as a safe metropolis. While police staff sees a yearly increase, goals such as a better officer-to-citizen ratio (currently: 1 to 600) are still to be achieved.

The Honourable Minister emphasized the focus of his policy on improved and citizen-friendly policing. As a recent measure, he mentioned the re-introduction of a special beat system, centering on demonstrating personal presence, ownership and responsibility of the police in all urban precincts. An approach in use by the Bavarian State Police, with which Hanns Seidel Foundation facilitated an exchange in 2016 and 2017. The ongoing exchange of expertise with the partner state in Germany is a great help for both sides to improve police training, protection of women and victims of sexual crimes, cyber-crime investigation as well as the closeness to citizens.

"Convergence can only be achieved through compromise": Sanjay Sahay, IPS, ADGP, State Police Complaints Authority (Grievances & Human Rights)

The police themselves, as well as the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, encouraged a discussion on more fundamental reforms – gathering support from representatives of the civil society in the audience: it was, for example, the lack of certainty of conviction for a sexual offense which encouraged such crimes, as R K Dutta, DG & IGP of Karnataka State Police as well as Sanjay Sahay, ADGP at State Police Complaints Authority (both IPS), pointed out. In order to achieve a deterrent effect, it had to be ensured that a conviction should be at the end of a process. To do this, a witness protection with proper treatment should be introduced, and the cooperation between the police, state prosecution and judiciary should be structured in a more efficient way, as the head of the prosecutor's office, Belaki, also critically commented.

Representatives of other ministries also took the opportunity to refer to urban security problems within their competence: unsafe working and salary conditions in construction, lack of food security in urban schools and kindergartens or lack of hygienic safety for unskilled workers were addressed and discussed.

Solely the open exchange in the conference was already reason occasion for optimism, as Dr Susanne Luther, Head of the Institute for International Cooperation at Hanns Seidel Foundation, emphasized at the end of the two days. The joint ideas portrayed the further path for the SafeCity cooperation project of the foundation, which arose from the official partnership between Bavaria and Karnataka. With the support of government, police and civil society, the foundation will continue to facilitate exchange of ideas and ensure cooperation with all stakeholders in the future.