THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Dissent is brewing among the camp followers of the Police Department after the top police brass decided to cut down their numbers while accompanying the policemen to other states for election duties. Normally, 10 camp followers are attached to a company while they go out of station for election duty. That was later reduced to six later citing manpower shortage. However, a new decision was taken by the higher-ups earlier this month according to which the number of camp followers has been further brought down to four.
An order in the departmental circular was issued by the Armed Police Battalions DIG. As per the order, a copy of which is with Express, the commandants of the battalions have been asked to send four camp followers with each company.A company usually has close to 100 members and the camp followers are responsible for preparing their food. They also have to purchase the essentials for preparing food.
A batch of policemen have already left for Lakshadweep and another batch will leave for Andhra Pradesh for election duty as per the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), on Saturday.An office bearer of the Camp Followers Association termed the decision as highly unfortunate and said the newly sanctioned number will further add stress to the already overburdened camp followers.
“Preparing food three times, that too with a rich table spread with different dishes, is a Herculean job with the newly sanctioned strength. We have to prepare snacks and tea twice a day in addition to food. That puts a big load on our shoulders,” he said.
“Suppose the train reaches the destination at midnight. We have to straightaway start our work without any rest. We are also responsible for procuring the commodities and have to deliver the food and supply at the places where the policemen are staying,” the office-bearer said.
Another adverse effect of this decision is there will be no replacement if one of the camp followers falls ill. “If a policeman falls ill, then the replacement will be sent from Kerala soon. But if a camp follower falls ill, then the rest of the camp followers will have to share that person’s works too,” the office-bearer added. The crux of the problem, the camp followers felt, is the reluctance of the officers to recruit more people. “If more people are recruited, then we will have enough manpower. Otherwise, the ultimate sufferers will be the policemen themselves,” said a source.
Once the election duty begins, the camp followers will have to accompany the force to other states. That will further deplete their strength in the camps and units. “The camps and units are now running on inadequate number of camp followers. When they are on election duty, things will worsen further,” a camp follower said.