The strike call by policemen on June 4 has rattled the government, challenged police top brass and surprised citizens. While this is undoubtedly a most unfortunate development, let us look into the reasons which have led to this development. To say that policemen are terribly overworked is an understatement.
A manpower requirement study by Janaagraha undertaken in March 2014 estimated that Banaswadi Police Station which has an overall strength of 87 would require 540 and Rajagopalnagar station with an existing strength of 90 would require 412 officers, in order to discharge their duties effectively after ensuring a day off for each police officer every week, provide them public holidays like other government servants and an eight-hour shift during duty days. The situation is worsened by the large number of vacancies, to fill up which government sanction is required every single time. A study by the Bureau of Police Research and Development has brought out similar results.
The problems of the police, particularly those of the constabulary hardly stop here. Their nature of work is arduous, sometimes having a dehumanising effect on them. Their working conditions are poor, police stations are ill equipped. They are expected to perform a skilled job but are paid poorly. They are equated with other civilian government employees for all purposes but expected to maintain military discipline.
Less than 40% of policemen are provided housing while the rest have to pay exorbitant rents to live in slum-like areas. The existing residential quarters are dilapidated as many were built in the 1950s.
That politicians misuse and abuse the police force is an accepted fact. Media and society bashing the police for their real or perceived wrongs is the order of the day. The list of policemen’s woes is long. Successive Central and state governments have failed the police despite clear directions by the Supreme Court to implement at least some of the police reforms. The reports on police reforms are gathering dust. It would suffice to say police morale today is at its lowest ebb.
The author is former DG&IGP, Karnataka. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org