Tamil Nadu traffic police personnel bear the brunt of summer heat

Police personnel on bandobust and traffic duty left to fight the rising temperature with pith helmets, buttermilk and bottles of water
Thousands of police personnel deployed across the state stand in the scorching sun to discharge their duty.
Thousands of police personnel deployed across the state stand in the scorching sun to discharge their duty. (Photo | Vishnudev)

CHENNAI: In the scorching heat of Vellore, one of the hottest places in the state where temperature is now sizzling at 43 degrees Celsius, a 45-year-old traffic police personnel is busy regulating the traffic, trying his best to ignore the exhaustion from the heat.

His shift begins at 11 am when the sun is at its brightest best. “I am sweating profusely and it drains our energy quickly,” he said, adding the concept of splitting the work hours in a day into two four-hour shifts instead of a single eight-hour stretch, has helped in mitigating the adverse effects of this summer to a certain extent.

While commuters feel the one-minute wait at traffic signals unbearable this summer, this policeman, like thousands of other personnel in khaki deployed across the state, stands often without a shade to discharge his duty.

The policeman said pith helmets, butter milk and water help them manage the heat. “Although fans are installed in designated rooms at traffic areas, they often exacerbate the heat,” he remarked, wiping the sweat dripping from his brow with a kerchief. “Some areas are devoid of such amenities altogether, leaving officials to bear the brunt of the heat.”

Another policeman, who is aged 55 years, said they had to sacrifice their weekly offs this summer since the model code of conduct is in force for the Lok Sabha election and more personnel are needed for election-related duties like providing security to counting centres and the like.

A 42-year-old traffic constable in Chengalpattu said afternoons are difficult in particular. “I drink lot of water. My wife calls me on the phone regularly to check on me,” he said.

When there is minimum traffic flow at the junction he is managing, he stands underneath a nearby tree for some respite. “I have to run to my spot and manage the traffic if there is an ambulance or a VIP passes by,” he said.

Woman cops say they are prone to urinary tract infection due to the unhygienic or non-availability of toilets where they are posted
| P Ravikumar
Woman cops say they are prone to urinary tract infection due to the unhygienic or non-availability of toilets where they are posted | P Ravikumar

A constable in Egmore said, “The thick cloth with which the uniform is made makes it unbearable in the heat. When I stand in the middle of the road, it feels as if I’m standing next to a fire. In the city, it is not easy to find shade. I stand in front of shops sometimes. However, I feel guilty for not being at the spot and rush back soon,” he said.

A traffic policeman in Krishnagiri district said though they are used to working in all weather conditions, this summer is the worst he has seen in at least 15 years. “Earlier, people will sponsor juice or other cool drinks to us. This year, we were offered buttermilk once, but it was stopped later,” he said, adding lack of bathroom facilities was also a key concern.

Forty-six-year-old Kala (name changed), a sub inspector in Madurai city, who has been with the department for 26 years, said though the state government announced that police would get week offs, only very few enjoy that benefit.

She said it is quite common for the police personnel to suffer urinary tract infection due to the unhygienic toilets or non-availability of toilets. “At present, we are on duty at counting centres where no fan is available. Officials can at least allow us to do duty in civilian dress, so that the difficulties that accompany with donning full uniforms could be alleviated,” she said.

A policeman in Nagercoil said he has made it a routine to have fermented rice with small onions in the morning, which he said helped him in tackling the heat.

Muthu Mariappan, a 41-year-old traffic policeman, on the busy Tirunelveli-Madurai NH near Sattur, said since vehicular movement is high and they travel at high speed, cops have to be alert to avoid accidents at the junctions on highways. “If the heat wave continues, we may faint on the road,” said the policeman who is on the job for 18 years.

Considering the hike in prices, he said the daily allowance of `12 provided by the government during summer for buying juices is not adequate. Another policewoman in Virudhunagar said women, who are on their menstrual cycle, find it difficult to be on duty under the sun.

Acknowledging all the struggles, S Saranya, a traffic inspector from Erode North, said they continued to work under battling the heat since the public will suffer otherwise. “Gloves, caps, etc have been provided. Our higher officials have advised us to stand under umbrellas during off-peak hours,” she said, adding while fruit juice was given earlier to beat the heat, it was stopped due to the election.

(With inputs from Praveena SA @ Vellore, Gautham Selvarajan @ Chennai, Jeyalakshmi Ramanujam @ Madurai, S Sivaguru @ Krishnagiri, Harini M @ Virudhunagar, M Abdul Rabi @ Kanniyakumari, and P Srinivasan @ Erode)

(In this series, TNIE looks at the condition of workers toiling under the sun)

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