Need for strict discipline

POLICE UNIFORMS AND FITNESS

At an investiture ceremony of the Border Security Force in New Delhi on June 1, 2017, Home Minister Rajnath Singh pulled up officials for not being “conscious” about wearing their uniforms properly. He noticed that many in uniform were not wearing headgears at that important function. He went to the extent of even stating that one of the officers whom he honoured with the medal had not tied his shoelaces properly.

Coming from the home minister, the matter calls for serious attention not just in the BSF but all other paramilitary and the state police forces. That the police personnel including Indian Police Service officers are not “conscious” of their uniforms is too evident all over the country. The pride that usually goes with the uniform is missing.

Undoubtedly, a smartly attired policeman commands respect and obedience not just from the criminals but also the general public. He instils a sense of awe and fear in the law-breakers. Good and smart turnout reflects on the discipline of the police organisation and thereby its image. As of now, the general public fears going to a police station as they expect to find pot-bellied hefty cops turning them away with their rude and arrogant behaviour.

It is to keep the policemen in top fitness condition that in most armed police and paramilitary forces, regular physical exercises are conducted every morning. In the paramilitary forces, annual medical examinations were introduced in late 1990s.

Personnel who are not found to be up to the mark are given treatment so that they are fit in all respects. Promotions are withheld if one fails to be medically fit in all respects.

In February this year, an inspector of Madhya Pradesh Police — Daulatram Jogewat — became the target of taunt in a twitter post by writer Shobha De who poked fun at the “heavy bandobast” with his photo alongside.

The inspector who weighed about 180 kg was suffering from hormonal imbalance. The media attention he got prompted a few doctors to come forward to treat him to reduce his weight. They were hopeful that the inspector would be able to shed off 80 to 100 kg in a year’s time.

The Maharashtra Police are paying serious attention to physical fitness of its personnel. Eminent nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar has been engaged, she visits police stations and advises the personnel on physical fitness, dietary control, insomnia and acidity to keep their weight under check.

Two IPS officers faced heat not long ago. Kusum Punia, a 2010 batch Jharkhand cadre officer and Kumar Gautam, a 2011 batch West Bengal cadre officer  were both sacked last year but reinstated this year after they sought to be tested again on compassionate grounds.

They cleared the physical and medical tests. Two other IPS probationers of 2015 batch narrowly escaped the ordeal when they just managed to clear the tests on being given another chance on compassionate grounds.

Enforcement of discipline in the police force as far as wearing of uniforms is concerned has been generally lax. Very few police chiefs attach importance to this aspect. Some years ago, a police chief in Bihar had to issue orders that nothing would be worn/sported while in uniform that would be associated with one’s religion. He was alluding to the fact that most policemen were sporting ‘tilak’ on their forehead while in uniform. The police have to be projected as a secular force.

Earlier in March this year, Karnataka police chief R K Dutta issued a directive to his personnel that they should be in uniform at all times while on duty. He warned of strict action if officials were found in civil dress while on duty. He stated in his circular that “improper dressing while on duty spoke of the casual attitude of the police officer and affected the image of the police department.” He advised the senior officers to strictly follow the dress code themselves and ensure that their subordinates too follow the rules.

As per protocol, all police officials meeting the home minister or attending any meeting where he is present, are expected to be in uniform but these basics are given a go-by even by senior cops. Such acts of misdemeanour prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to issue strict instructions recently.
Designer uniforms

The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), which is under the MHA, is engaged these days in designing new pattern of uniforms for the police forces of the country, in keeping with the changing times. Though policing is a state subject, efforts are being made to bring uniformity in the dresses of all police personnel in the country.

The choice of course will lie with the states to accept or reject the uniforms that will be recommended by the MHA. The new multi-coloured designer uniforms, designed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, are expected to be “smarter and visually pleasing and will project a friendly image”, according to BPR&D sources. The uniforms are designed separately for summer and winter for some states while all-weather uniforms have been designed for other states.

The Hyderabad Police have already distributed cooling vests to its personnel posted in the traffic police with a view to keep their bodies cooler by 5 to 6 degrees lower than the ambient temperature for up to five hours while they are on duty.

The special commando forces like the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra) of CRPF already have special uniforms that allow them to operate for long durations in the forests.
All the efforts of the MHA and the state police forces will be in vain if strict discipline is not enforced in proper wearing of uniform coupled with top physical fitness. It is indeed a sad reflection on the leadership of the police forces if our political leaders need to remind them of the need to wear our uniforms in the right manner.

(The writer is a retired Inspector General of Police, CRPF)

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