It’s not easy being a police person in India, not when eight out of ten movies paint them in atrocious light. And why blame just movies. Don’t we all, when we see one policeman take a bribe on the road put every in the Khakhi uniform in the same box immediately? “Try stepping into my shoes for just one day” he says with a convinced smile when you ask him about his work and the perception people have about police officers. A sub Inspector (SI) for the past 12 years, this gentleman takes the attitude of public with a pinch of salt. “It’s funny how we are the only ones blamed for corruption when the fact is that in our country it’s become a way of life. Do you know when I take an unidentified body for a post mortem, the doctor expects a little money, and the mortuary guys are happy getting a small bottle of liquor.
How many people know about corruption and wanting to put an end to it? It’s pretty easy playing the blame game.” What also strikes our SI as rather strange is the attitude of public. “People talk about police force abroad, their efficiency. Have people seen the infrastructure they have, the respect with which people talk to them? In our country we are treated like outsiders, some strange creatures. Where do we come from? From among the people, after all. Then how and why are we treated like a strange entity? Try and understand us, our pressures, and our conditions and let us all work together as responsible citizens.” A constable who has been in the service for the past 13 years finds it amusing to think how everyone blames the police for everything that goes wrong “If a drain overflows after the rains, it’s the police’s fault, if people stand as mute witnesses to accidents while the police arrives, it’s still the police’s fault, if there is a fire it still the police’s fault. There is such limited knowledge of what all comes under the police’s role.
If we all do out duties as citizens, life would be much simpler for everyone.” In the book Understanding the Police in India (2009) written by two senior police officers, Arvind Verma & KS Subramanian, now retired, talks about how, “India must be one of the few democratic countries where citizens do not trust the police, an important administrative organ of their elected government, and feel intimidated by them… Unfortunately, little is known about the police organisation and the reasons for its poor image…The problems of the Indian police run deepthe design, structure, culture and leadership are all equally responsible for the present state of affairs.
This remains hidden due to a lack of understanding about the nature and functions of the police in the country.” An ACP known for his no nonsense attitude points to the working conditions. “It’ll help a lot if people understand the pressures the police works under. Think of a typical accident site. People crowd the victim, when the policeman asks people to get away; they still decide to hang around. Because the policeman is usually advised to wait for medical help at scenes like this, he has to handle the situation till help arrives. This man is under pressure to save a life and there are 25-30 people trying to break his concentration. He usually ends up abusing and getting agitated.”
It’s not an easy job for sure, says the officer who comes from a defence background. “Little money, slow promotions, and working round the clock, the pressures pile up.” In fact the work hours are something that most people in the police force talk about. A sipahi who has been in service for two years puts it simply, “You don’t mind working hard if the pay makes up for it. Out here its hard work and very little money.” And then of course, there is the cross of perceptions to carry. What is easily forgotten is that you and I are as responsible for this country as anyone else.
The police in India a book by M B Chande a senior police officer who retired fom the police force in the year 1978 said unabashedly about the recruitment process, “Orders are received directly from ministers to recruit their recommended candidate and failure to comply with such instruction, any direction, ended privation to the disobedient officer. The result is that the police efficiency, competence, reliability, honesty, probity and integrity and all the qualifications of a good policeman have been eroded to the level of extinction.” Something for all of us to chew on?