Cops' protest does not augur well

Cops' protest does not augur well

The proposed protest by the police personnel of Karnataka by taking mass casual leave on June 4 amounts to going on strike which is prohibited by police service laws and rules and would result in severest disciplinary action. However, such protests do not augur well for the society.

Strikes by policemen are very rare indeed. In 1979, the police personnel went on strike in Bihar which had its repercussion in Karnataka. At that time, the ring leaders were summarily dismissed and the strike fizzled out. Later, several measures were taken by both state and Central governments to prevent future strikes. Except for sporadic spontaneous reactions, organised mass protest by police is unheard of.

The root cause of the proposed strike is the prevalent discontentment among the rank and file over their service conditions, especially long working hours and refusal of grant of leave and weekly off. It is reported that in cities like Bengaluru, a constable works for more than 10 hours a day.

Considering that he has to commute long distances to reach his place of work, he does not get any time to attend to his personal work or to spend quality time with his family. The only time that he can call his own is the day in which he is allowed to be off duty.

A constable is entitled to take four days in a month as ‘weekly off’. However, in lieu of this, they can get two day’s extra salary if they so desire. It is alleged that those who want to avail weekly off are not allowed leave citing law and order problems and security duties. It is also alleged that leave applications are rejected and if a constable absents for work, his pay is cut. This has caused severe heartburn.

Senior officers say that due to increased manpower demand, especially for law and order as well as security duties, it is not possible to allow all constables leave of absence. Due to increased workload, eight hour shifts have to get extended.

Besides, the sanctioned strength of policemen for each station does not suffice considering the pressure of work. Police recruitment is not done in a cyclic manner and since new posts are created, manpower availability is perpetually short.

This is not a new problem. Some effective ways of overcoming it have often been suggested. The first is handing over non- core-policing jobs to civilians. For example, as is done in the UK, constables who do ministerial work, or work in communications set up, can easily be replaced by civilians and the uniformed personnel so relieved can be utilised for core-policing.

A large number of constables perform orderly duties in the residences of officers and also in the offices. Any Class D employee would perform this job as effectively as a cop. Besides this, a system of manpower forecasting and annual or bi-annual recruitment of police personnel will help in keeping police vacancies at a manageable level.

Deploying needs review
The tendency to deploy civil police personnel in big strength for every law and order duty needs a review. Earlier, such duties were managed by deploying the armed police like CAR/DAR or KSRP and civil police concentrated on crime and traffic duties. The second reason for discontentment appears to be non-redressal of grievances of the constabulary due to fewer interactions between the former and senior officers.

Earlier, senior officers were visiting police stations regularly. They were inspecting weekly parades and conducting annual inspections. These events gave an opportunity to the junior officers to communicate with their seniors and get their grievances redressed.

Seniors were conducting “Orderly Room” and listening to the problems of the constabulary. Wives of senior police officers would visit police lines, meet the family members of constabulary and try to solve their problems.

Such practices are reportedly rare nowadays. Since there is no avenue for a junior employee to air his grievance, frustration has set in and this seems to trigger action like mass casual leave. Lack of communication has also resulted in the constables being not aware of what good the government is doing for them.

Constables are also now demanding parity of pay with those in Telangana, stoppage of “ harassment “of their seniors (by way of increased disciplinary action for ‘minor’ acts of omission and commission)  and ensuring the welfare measures already initiated for them to run smoothly.

The real grievances of the constabulary need to be looked into sympathetically. It is the constabulary that forms 80% of the police force and it is they who slog.

Their problems cannot be brushed aside by invoking disciplinary action. A discontented police force is like cancer. Sooner or later it will devour the entire body. Since society will have to pay a very heavy price later for ignoring the plight of the constabulary, it is high time that the government and police top brass have a serious dialogue with them and solve their genuine and immediate problems.

(The writer retired as Director General of Police, Karnataka)