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India: The working conditions of ordinary Delhi policemen

23 December 2012

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The Times of India

Tough conditions but you expect us to fix everything: Delhi cop

Indrani Basu, TNN Dec 23, 2012, 01.34 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Reviled as an ineffective, uncouth force that terrorizes people rather than protect them, Delhi Police officials find scarce favour with Delhiites. Indrani Basu of TOI spoke to a lower functionary of the force to unveil a lesser-known side of the daily functioning of the 76,000-strong team that is supposed to keep the city safe.

When I joined the police force, I didn’t know I would spend most of my time doing things other than what I was trained for. The public expects police to help them with every problem, including matters unrelated to our work.

The control room receives roughly 24,000 calls a day; 70% of these are not policing matters. Almost daily we are called in for civic disputes, problems with electric supply, presence of stray dogs, monkeys - the list is endless.

Civic agencies should handle such complaints but people call the police as other control rooms don’t spring into action. We have to resolve the issue as it may become a law and order problem. There have been occasions where we’ve fetched electricians or other technicians to resolve some issue.

The public perceives us as unruly and uncouth. Much of this has to do with our working conditions. Unlike other government departments, all of which have fixed work-hours, cops don’t have any shift system.

I may have a 12-hour duty but if I get a distress call 30 minutes before I’m to leave, I must attend to the call. This can take hours - many times the next 12 hours - to sort out. It’s usual to work 24 hours without rest and continue the next day. The Delhi Police Act says an officer is on duty round the clock. A policeman gets a month’s extra salary every year to compensate for working without a shift system, but this compromises quality of work.

Many times we don’t get vehicles to respond to distress calls. We usually use private conveyance to reach the crime spot: our own or an auto. There are around 15-20 cops per police station. But not more than four or five motorcycles are provided to each. Most bikes are on patrolling duty.

Some stations have an emergency response vehicle. The conveyance allowance up to an Inspector’s rank is about Rs 375 a month. This cripples our work. There is need for a proper emergency response unit for every call received; not leave an officer to his own devices.

Investigations throw up their own kind of miscellaneous expenses that you will never see in official statistics. From getting a post-mortem done to collecting forensic reports, our pocket is made lighter in many ways. We have to submit a charge-sheet within 90 days, but with limited forensic facilities we invariably incur expenses to get test results on time.

Provisions exist to claim investigation expenditure, but it’s a tedious process. Also, there are no proper bills for most such expenses. For example, every year we remove several dead bodies. We make our own arrangements to retrieve the body and take it to the mortuary. Usually, we rope in a passerby willing to do the job in return for payment that comes from our own pocket. How can we claim such expenses?

We don’t even have basic facilities. No buildings or land are demarcated for police stations when an area is developed. Outposts come up based on need. Many times such outposts are mere tents. It doesn’t feel like we work for a serious organization.

Several stations don’t have facilities for overnight stay though duty can stretch to three, four days continuously. Issues of mosquitoes, unhygienic surroundings and unavailability of fans plague many. Some police stations don’t even have access to drinking water. There may be no water connection even. Lack of proper facilities causes us to function with a negative frame of mind.

Such tough work conditions make us an unhappy lot, which sometimes compromises the police-public interface. Many cope with the pressure by resorting to corruption, anger, brutality - a vicious cycle.

We constantly deal with criminals with no stress-relieving facilities provided. Many cops need psychological counselling, therapy to deal with their daily stress. No such facility is available. Some medical camps have raised these concerns but they are never resolved.


The above article from The Times of India is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use.