New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said the most important thing in a democracy is a citizen’s independence and freedom of expression which is directly linked to good policing, and this needs to be continuously improved.

He said ‘beat constable’ deployed at the lowest level of the police system makes the “biggest contribution” towards making a democracy successful by protecting the common man.

Delivering the keynote speech during the 51st foundation day event of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), the minister said democracy cannot be successful if law and order are not good.

“Democracy is our nature… this was our character even before independence and we accepted this after gaining freedom. This is the nature of our people. The biggest thing in a democracy is a person’s independence and freedom of expression,” he said.

When it comes to the freedom of expression of a person, it is directly linked to law and order, he noted.

“Democracy is not just about voting for parties and forming a government… this is just a part of the system. What is the success or fruit of democracy? The fruit is that 130 crore people of the country, according to their capabilities and intelligence, get to develop themselves and the country gets the benefit of this cumulative effect for its development,” Shah said.

He emphasised that democracy cannot prosper if law and order in a country is not good.

“This work is done by police and forces that guard our borders. It is very important for a successful democracy that the security of a person is ensured. The citizen should keep getting his legal rights in an uninterrupted manner. A citizen should be able to discharge his duties as per the spirit of the constitution,” the Union minister stated.

And hence, he said, upgrading and improving the police force is the work of BPR&D.

Shah noted that the image of the police, at certain times, is maligned by certain quarters.

“I do not know why a campaign has been run to damage the image of the police. Some incidents are hyped and shown, while good incidents are not popularised,” he said.

The home minister said while various other institutions like the parliament, state assemblies, judiciary, election commission, CAG and vigilance commission have made democracy successful, the beat constable of police deserved a far greater appreciation in this context.

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“Not because I am the home minister, but I have had this thinking since my childhood that to make democracy successful, the biggest contribution is of the beat constable,” he said.

Without reviving beat policing, basic policing cannot be good and this has to be updated which requires technology upgradation and BPR&D needs to work on that, the minister noted.

“I want to say it again that the most difficult job in the government service is that of a policeman,” he reiterated.

During all festivals, whether it is Holi, Deepawali or Eid, policemen are on duty, he said.

“There are no fixed work hours, neither a definite scope of work for a policeman. I have seen that all this takes a toll on their health and there is no acknowledgement of these things…. the sacrifices made by police personnel is not mentioned much,” the minister rued.

He asked the BPR&D to give “special focus” and work on the image building of police.

The police should change their work style as per the challenge, he said, counting cyber attacks, drone attacks, narcotics smuggling, fake currency and hawala rackets as the “biggest” challenges for the security establishment.

“For all this, you (BPR&D) should prepare our forces and also study the best practices across the globe,” he said.

The skills of the cops should be sharpened, Shah said.

The minister also talked about reforms done by the Modi government and various steps taken to empower the law enforcement agencies.

“The home ministry is doing a number of things to bring about radical changes in the IPC, CrPC and the Evidence Act,” he said.

Interaction has been held in this context with at least 14 states, three UTs, eight central police organisations, six CAPFs and 7 NGOs; and they have sent in their suggestions.

“This is a work in progress…this is a big work,” he added.

The minister said his government has brought in necessary “radical changes” in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to check funds sent to “destabilise” the country.

Addressing officers and personnel from various central, state and Union Territory police forces, Shah said the next decade is going to be very important from the point of internal security as the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was taking giant leaps in becoming a strong nation and economy, and we should “not think that some forces will try to stop this.”

He added that as many as 3,700 armed cadres of various insurgent groups have surrendered with their weapons before the Union government in the last two years.

Whosoever will shun weapons, we will take steps to bring them to the mainstream, he said.

The minister finally asked the BPR&D, a central government think tank, to prepare the police forces as smart and strong units.

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