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Vassalage in Police

Vassalage in Police

The way Kerala's police conducts itself, it appears to be bent on attracting popular outrage. The worst example of this is the incident in which the daughter of Battalion chief ADGP Sudesh Kumar manhandled a police driver in typical 'police style'. And when an enquiry was initiated into it, that led to revelations about still worse details.

What have been emerging are rotten stories of the vassalage ruling the roost in the police force. It has been discovered that employees at the lowest rung of police, paid from the state's exchequer have been used to for housekeeping residences of the top brass, grooming their pet dogs, running chores for their families and, what more, even construction jobs.

When Gavaskar the driver of ADGP Sudesh Kumar, and victim of the latest attack, and his wife started speaking out, tales of slavery hitherto hushed-up have been coming out one by one. For the past several months, the bad experience from the police has been about police running amok on the people with custody deaths and cruel torture. But what transpire now are dirty accounts of the police bosses using their 'lower' ranks for servitude. The government assigns to top officials, personal staff from the force at government expense, in order to ease their burden at home and thus to facilitate their smooth discharge of duty. But such employees have been converted to servants and to be used for the upkeep of their homes and to serve their family. Pity the policeman who are thus burdened with a range of 'duties' from running errands, cleaning footwear, washing clothes, arranging easy entry for worship in temples for their relatives, right upto getting fish from the market, taking it to police camp to get it fried and then feeding the pet dogs. The matter of concern is not that the high officials like the one who was moved out of his position, basked in receiving such yeomen service as a matter of right, but that those who were subjected to this humiliation came to terms with this slavery, seeing it as accepted means of ascending the hierarchical ladder and of winning favours from top brass. Now when the master's daughter's cruelty went beyond all limits, the last ember of self-respect in the policeman went into flames. And it so happened that in that flame, the well-kept secrets of servitude in the police came to light.

The state government has been spending above 8 crore rupees to maintain over 2,000 policemen to serve 80-plus IPS officials and political leaders and their families with domestic duties and entirely private matters. And those from IPS receive the service of four to ten persons of the kind. The complaint heard is that the bosses customarily distribute such staff among themselves as they deem necessary. Those who are illegally forced to do servant's duty are the ones who get posted as camp followers under the guise of camp house duty. Staff who are deputed to such duty are those who work in police camps such as cooks, sweepers, launders, barbers and suppliers of water. When the cat of such out of the way arrangement was out, the headquarters ADGP issued circular asking those above SP to submit in person the figures of such 'domestic servants'. Service of 18 staff has been rendered not only in the houses of various commission authorities and IPS cadre officials working outside police, but even of retired IPS officers.

About two years ago, the wives of police's camp followers had got organized and lodged a complaint about the severe torture suffered under the top officials. They had also raised the grievance that even for their regular duty there was no fixed criteria with specified hours, and they used to work without off days just to earn their livelihood, they were subjected to severe disciplinary action for faults. The humiliation from private service comes on top all that. However high be the police officials, using the staff of the force for personal and private matters is punishable under Clause 99 of the Police Act. It is forbidden to ask or force a police man to work like a servant in a lowly manner, unbecoming of the dignity of police force. Any one violating this is liable to be sentenced to six months imprisonment of a fine of Rs 2,000 or both. It is in a matter with such clear cut rules that the very officials bound to enforce them breach them and throw their weight around as masters. On an earlier occasion, when complaints were raised about the vassalage, former DGP Sen Kumar had issued a directive to send all such employees back to the camps, but some officials did not obey it at all.

The issue is that when lunacy has affected the chain, who will treat whom. The left government has been trying to trivialize the enormity as something conventionally existing. The chief minister himself had acknowledged that the police had certain trouble makers. And the government had formulated certain guidelines for good conduct when the police atrocity against the general public had gone too far. But the police was crying off as if it were beyond reform. And now the narrative heard of its inside rotten. It may take quite an effort to clean that up. One wonders what solution the chief minister has up his sleeve to present at the high-level meeting scheduled for the 26th.

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