Editorial 1: India’s law and order matrix needs a reboot


  • The annual All India Conference of Directors General/Inspectors General of Police which was held recently, witnessed a departure from the past, when some aspects that were discussed found their way into the public domain. This led to an element of controversy over the management of certain issues, specially on the border, but little else.

In-depth discussion is taking a hit

  • The proliferation of subjects up for discussion in recent conferences, and the presence of increasing numbers of delegates to cover the various subjects leave little scope for any in-depth discussion.
  • Today’s security threats have an all-embracing character and there is a crying need for in-depth discussions on futuristic themes in policing, such as cyber crime, the dark web, crypto, maritime security, the threat from drones, and also problems stemming from an unchecked social media.
  • These are in addition to subjects such as left-wing extremism, counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and border issues. Lack of adequate time to discuss these matters in detail tend to undermine both the quality of the debates and possible outcomes.
  • Admittedly, we may not be standing today at the beginning of history, but the evolving security scenario is producing a myriad of internal and external challenges. As the 21st century advances, security problems will grow at an exponential rate. Their dimensions are as yet unclear, but what is already evident is that the emerging challenges would require greater innovativeness and agility as well as a demonstration of newer cognitive skills to meet the challenges posed by swift technological change and the rise of data war fighting. Hence, decision making in these circumstances needs to undergo fundamental changes, entailing more purposive discussion at higher levels.
  • Law and order management today would be a good starting point in this context. This subject may appear rather mundane in a world dominated by technology; but what it currently demands is a combination of newer skills, in both technology and crowd management, which are not readily available among security agencies.
  • The attention of most security forces in the country has essentially been devoted to ongoing threats such as terrorism, which has resulted in law and order management being put on the back burner. Managing today’s angry, and often unruly, mobs requires a fresh set of skills and inherent abilities, apart from mere technology.
  • A heavy-handed approach tends to create more problems than they solve. Any approach of this kind only leads to a catastrophic divide between law enforcement agencies and the public, at a time when newer practices and skills are the proper answer.
  • Hence, much more is clearly required than simply reiterating that technology, including artificial intelligence, can provide answers to a host of problems that exist. Understanding the psychology of agitating mobs and, in turn making them realise the dangers of their own predilections before matters get out of hand, is not an innate, but an acquired skill. This needs better attention.
  • Police and security agencies, must consequently, be provided with the right attributes, and for which they need to be adequately trained. This would call for a top down approach, as there would be considerable competition of resources from within the agencies for other items such as advances in weaponry and technology. It would be required even more, to secure acceptance of utilitarian aspects of any such move.

Pay attention to selection, skills

  • The selection of personnel to security agencies, especially the police, also will require a total makeover. The 21st century is proving to be vastly different from the 20th century, and the choice of personnel to man security agencies requires more high-level attention than has been devoted to this task.
  • Most of the debate on this subject has been outside, rather than within the police forces, and the higher echelons of the forces have not spent enough time in determining what can and needs to be done. The police forces must mirror the kind of society we live in today, and must be capable of dealing with today’s modern antagonists.
  • The latter often employ a variety of tactics and skills, and use common imagery to keep track of developing situations, including on social media and Twitter. For the police and security forces, this means that more than the mere acquisition of new skills, they must develop a different mind set, including that force cannot be the answer to every situation.
  • Technological advances worldwide have meant that the human skills of security agencies need to be suitably tailored to a world in which the Internet, social media and other breakthroughs, often provide protestors and agitators an upper hand, and often detrimental to law and order.
  • This has given rise to the importance of ‘Open Source intelligence’ (OSINT) that is often neglected by security agencies. The proper utilisation of OSINT could well become the critical factor in managing many law and order situations today. A vast gap exists at present between the need, and on how best to utilise information from open sources.
  • An added problem, apart from the existing cauldron of events, incidents and situations, is the presence of multiple security agencies, including intelligence and investigative agencies, who seldom act with a common purpose. Their techniques and methodologies tend to be different, often leading to contradictions in approach. While the proliferation of agencies was intended to create specialised agencies for special requirements, this has not happened. Far from easing the burden of individual agencies, they often hinder proper analysis and investigation.

‘Small is beautiful’

  • Hence, what is clear is that there is a very real need to take a hard look at not only improving the nature of the security discourse — in regard to the range and varieties of threats — but also on how to bring about changes in regard to intelligence techniques, investigative methodologies, improving the ground situation, etc. Conventional wisdom would suggest that an apex level meeting of DGPs/IGPs would provide the necessary direction and policy imperatives.
  • The reality is that too broad a sweep, both in terms of the subjects discussed, as well as in the numbers present, tends to affect the quality of the discourse even among dedicated professionals. Meaningful discussions cannot occur when the size of the conference inhibits detailed and frank discussion even in a professional atmosphere. Here, as in many other aspects of life, ‘small is beautiful’.


  • In short order, it can be said that there is a case for splitting the annual conference of DGPs/IGPs into two separate conferences — a higher level conference of DGPs/IGPs to discuss policy related issues, and a separate conference to be held of intelligence and security specialists (IGs/CID) to discuss the finer points of methodology, techniques and acquisition of new skills for current and future problems. Outcomes would then become more relevant to current and future security needs.

Editorial 2: The status and proceeds of disinvestment


  • In the Union Budget for 2023-24, the government has set a disinvestment target of ₹51,000 crore, down nearly 21% from the budget estimate for the current year and just ₹1,000 crore more than the revised estimate. It is also the lowest target in seven years. Moreover, the Centre has not met the disinvestment target for 2022-23 so far, having realised ₹31,106 crore to date, of which, ₹20,516 crore or close to a third of the budgeted estimate came from the IPO of 3.5% of its shares in the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC).

Why does the government undertake disinvestment?

  • Disinvestment or divestment, in this context, is when the government sells its assets or a subsidiary, such as a Central or State public sector enterprise.
  • 3 main approaches to disinvestment:
  • On fruition of minority disinvestment, the government retains a majority in the company, typically greater than 51%, thus ensuring management control.
  • In the case of majority divestment, the government hands over control to the acquiring entity but retains some stake whereas in complete privatisation, 100% control of the company is passed on to the buyer.
  • The Union Finance Ministry has a separate department for undertaking disinvestment-related procedures called the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).
  • The government may disinvest in order to reduce the fiscal burden or bridge the revenue shortfall for that year. It also uses disinvestment proceeds to finance the fiscal deficit, to invest in the economy and development or social sector programmes, and to retire government debt.
  • Disinvestment also encourages private ownership of assets and trading in the open market. If successful, it also means that the government does not have to fund the losses of a loss-making unit anymore.
  • After the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government’s privatisation drive, the stock market saw the listing of shares of a bunch of public sector firms. A bold push for disinvestment of the public sector was expected soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014, announcing that the government had “no business to be in business”.

How has disinvestment fared in recent years

  • To begin with, different central governments over the last three decades have been able to meet annual disinvestment targets only six times. Since coming to power in 2014, the BJP-led NDA government has met (and overachieved) its disinvestment targets twice. In 2017-18, the government earned disinvestment receipts of a little over ₹1 lakh crore as against a target of ₹72,500 crore, and in 2018-19, it brought in ₹94,700 crore when the target was set at ₹80,000 crore.
  • Notably, PRS Legislative Research points out that in recent years, in cases of disinvestment where the government sold more than 51% of its shareholding in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), along with a transfer of management control, its stake was sold to another public sector enterprise.

Disinvestment receipts (2022-23)

  • As of February 8, 2023, the government’s disinvestment receipts stood at ₹31,106.64 crores as against the budget estimate of ₹65,000 crores.
  • In 2021-22, when Air India was added to the Tata group, the Centre missed its high disinvestment target of ₹1.75 lakh crore by a significant margin, raising just ₹13,534 crore in disinvestment proceeds.
  • In the current year, a third of its budget estimate came from the delayed LIC IPO, which would have happened in the previous year if not for market volatility.

What are CPSEs likely to be divested in 2023-24?

  • The Centre is not going to add new companies to the list of CPSEs to be divested in 2023-24 and the aspirational divestments of two public sector banks and one general insurance firm, announced in the budget two years ago, will not be a part of the divestment plan either. According to DIPAM, the government has decided to stick to the already-announced and planned privatisation of State-owned companies.
  • These include IDBI Bank, the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), the Container Corporation of India Ltd (Concor), NMDC Steel Ltd, BEML, HLL Lifecare, and so on. Incidentally, the disinvestments of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, SCI, and ConCor had been approved by the government in 2019 but have not gone through yet. The divestment of major holdings of the IDBI bank is also in the pipeline and is likely to be concluded by mid-FY24.

What have been the challenges to disinvestment?

  • Observers point out that disinvestment should ideally be driven by the long-term vision of the government on the extent to which it wants to privatise the economy and the sectors where it needs to retain a presence — and not by the need to raise revenues. However, of late, the government’s reliance on disinvestment proceeds to bridge the gap in the Budget has been increasing.
  • It had introduced a new strategic disinvestment policy in 2021 to maintain ‘bare minimum’ presence in strategic sectors like atomic energy, defence etc., and exit non-strategic sector enterprises.


  • Disinvestment planning calls for a consistent and long-term rationale. DIPAM and NITI Aayog together should make a long term plan for the same. 


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