Orderly system is driven by the feudal mentality of our privileged classes

Recently, a police orderly in Kerala accused that he was seriously manhandled by the daughter and wife of a senior IPS officer.

Published: 24th June 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st June 2018 11:26 PM   |  A+A-

Recently, a police orderly in Kerala accused that he was seriously manhandled by the daughter and wife of a senior IPS officer. The constable was driving the official car to take the wife and daughter to some private function and the daughter, who is a civil service aspirant, hit him repeatedly from the back seat using her mobile phone, according to the constable. The daughter also has filed a counter-complaint saying he abused her. The police have charged non-bailable case against both the parties, after media took up the issue. The truth, hopefully, may come out after the investigation. What is surprising is the existence of this colonial system of having orderlies. In 19th century, British government had introduced the orderly system. Native men were recruited as menial servants for the white master. The officers treated the orderlies the way a master was expected to treat a slave in the last century.

Though we conveniently threw away many good aspects of the colonial rule, we were careful to preserve such abhorrent practices. India is traditionally an unequal society. The inequality is entrenched thanks to caste system which trains us from childhood to treat any job involving physical activity, except fighting, as inferior. We relish bookish knowledge, with scant regard for practical manifestation of the same. There are thousands of beautiful temples with magnificent architecture.

There are legends associated with each temple. We get to know which saint established which temple and which king or merchant sponsored the building, but rarely do we know the names of the sculptors who made the poetries in stone. There are murals that could rival any Raphael or Michelangelo in many of our temples. We have not even bothered to record these great artists’ name. The oppressive caste system ensured that the names of those unknown geniuses are obliterated from history forever. The injustice is more marked as we remember the names of our poets and dramatists but not any other engineers, artists, artisans, weavers, metallurgists etc.

The orderly system may have its roots in colonial era, but what drives it is the feudal mentality of our privileged classes. India is a country that has one of the least police to people ratio in the world. Yet, we have no qualms in using our trained constabulary to be servants of police officers. Theoretically, an orderly is expected to help officers in maintenance and upkeep of uniform, answering telephone calls, attending to personal security and to run small errands. In practice, cooking, washing, taking the officer’s children to school, shopping for the officer’s family, bathing pet dogs, gardening, clearing garbage, even milking buffaloes of the superior officer etc. form the part of their duty. Imagine the disrespect shown to a fellow policeman.

The police selection, whether it is that of the constable or that of the elite Indian Police Service, is done to select the most capable for the job. A large number of the police force is used to provide security to the VIPs, the people elected by us, to protect them from us. Or perhaps vice versa. Another large group, after getting trained in traffic management, usage of arms, crime detection, forensic sciences, crowd control etc is now cooling their heels at the homes of senior officers, serving the people and the country by driving memsahibs to clubs and babysitting their children or grandchildren. Newspaper reports say many officers have 10 to 12 personal servants. We pay tax, in the good faith that the state would provide us proper law and order and security, and not for such medieval privileges of a few.

We need to think from the side of the orderly too. There may be a few who are taking this as an easy way of life, as they are often exempted from drills, will have close relationship with the superior officer and like any other profession, sycophancy should be a guaranteed career enhancement scheme in the police force too. At the same time, there would be many who will have their self-esteem bruised and would be bearing the daily humiliation for the sake of livelihood.

Many of the senior police officers come from states that are still in the grip of feudalism. When they encounter orderlies in states like Kerala where most police constables are graduates or post-graduates, social friction is bound to happen. The present incident is a proof to it. It is a miracle that such atrocious practices did not come to public light so far in a politically aware and charged state like Kerala. Karnataka had withdrawn it a few years before. In 2013, a parliamentary committee under the present Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu had recommended abolition of orderly system as they had found it was affecting the morale of the police force.

We often underestimate the power of bureaucracy and direct our ire and frustration on the politician. Politicians’ power is the authority we give them through our franchise. But the bureaucrat, including the police, towers over us, armed with archaic laws and privileges inherited from the colonial rule. The unscrupulous ones take it for granted that since they passed a competitive examination in their twenties, they have the divine right to lead a zamindari life with numerous state-sponsored servants.

It would be interesting to see how successful the Chief Minister of Kerala would be in keeping his promise of ending the disgusting system of slavery in the police force. The governments will come and go, but the bureaucracy remains untamed, so my bet would be on the police badesahibs having the last laugh.

Anand Neelakantan

Author, columnist, speaker


India Matters


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