Saturday, September 20, 2008

How our policmen live and work.....

The death of the Delhi Police special cell officer, Inspector Mohan Chand in an encounter operation on Sunday should be interesting to reflect on for it demonstrates the often thankless conditions the police forces often work under. Of course this short piece is no paean in any way to the functioning of the Indian police. After all, the Police Act of 1861, the bible for the Indian police, is still a colonial legislation designed to create a “politically useful” force. After Independence, the power went into the hands of politicians and in spite of some attempts at reform, not much has changed.

But look at this. Inspector Mohan Chand was a highly decorated officer in the Delhi Police and in a stint of close to 13 years, he was responsible for the arrest of 85 terrorists who had been tracked down by him and had been decorated gallantry awards ten times. Yet shortly after his death of bullet wounds in the stomach – and we will come to that – the political boss of the Delhi Police, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said that “We will do whatever we can to pay homage to him on behalf of the entire country,”

Generally speaking, it seems that the country didn’t take too much care of the police man when he was alive though. Although portly politicians walk around with all kinds of security – Y,Z, Z plus and what not, police encounter parties which foray into real time danger as they deal with terrorists and other criminal elements seem to do so without adequate backup. Admittedly, the battle on the front lines has to be fought lean and mean and there is no doubt about that, but adequate medical and infra structural help ought to be at hand. The injured Mohan Chand was rushed to the Holy Family Hospital in nearby Okhla and although the doctors there surely would have done their best, the Holy Family is not really a trauma centre equipped or staffed to deal with terrorist inflicted wounds.

The Indian Express recently covered the work situation of a constable in the Delhi Police and their salaries. Some salient features of how the government takes care of them when they are alive and at work – “Salaries of constables are comparable only with semi-skilled workers, though their work is much more complicated and risky. But still the common man mistrusts them, and their own senior officers deal strictly with them.” A beat constable often has to patrol alone at night, armed with only a baton: he stands with two other constables at police pickets and flags down speeding vehicles with only the ‘protection’ of a police barricade…..

The job doesn’t pay well either ; not even after the recent pay commission recommendations which have seen the pay of a constable rise from a scale of Rs 3050-4590 to Rs 3200-4900, not a princely sum of a raise considering the squabbles going on in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy among both the administrative, police and the defence services.

So guess that for Shivraj Patel and the government if they are sincere about doing whatever they can for the likes of the late inspector Mohan Chand, the wok is cut out. Poor image in the public perception, long and unsatisfactory work conditions, poor pay and morale… the issues are endless. Going by the current minster’s record, there may not be much to expect, but it may be worthwhile to watch and see if institutionally, the government moves to make life more bearable for our overworked police force.

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