By Gagan Krishnadas
The decision by Akhila Karnataka Police Mahasangha to protest by taking a ‘mass leave’ on June 4 is not surprising given the inhuman working conditions of the police personnel, especially the ones in the constable cadre. The Delhi Police in 1967 had protested against bad working conditions. The protests by Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) in Uttar Pradesh in 1973 turned violent and army had to be called in to control the protests. It is notable that the strike by police personnel – first of its kind in Karnataka is being planned to be carried out peacefully. Looking at the statistics of the personnel and working conditions as recorded in the research reports, the protest by the police personnel seems very legitimate.
The present protest by Karnataka Police and the previous protests have all been against bad working conditions. Bad working conditions include:
a. inadequate pay at the lower levels;
b. lack of disability benefits;
c. no housing and dearness allowance;
d. long hours of service;
e. lack of promotion prospects;
f. no leaves;
g. performance of menial duties for senior officers; and
Although the work pressure exists in the entire police department, it is the personnel at the constable grade who face the maximum brunt of all the problems in the department. The police department works round the clock and is prescribed to work in 3 shifts of 8 hours each. But in reality, police personnel work for two shifts in a day of 12 hours each. Though entitled for a weekly off, they are not allowed claim it. Corruption and political interference have also affected the working conditions in a negative way.
The Additional Director General of Police (Recruitment and Training), Bangalore conducted a study titled “A profile of Junior ranks of Karnataka Police. – A survey of their Attitudes, Behaviour, Mental makeup and Stress levels” during December 2008. The survey indicated that, around 39% of the police personnel at the constable cadre responded that they worked for 8 to 12 hours. 35% of them responded that they worked for about 13 to 16 hours a day. It is shocking that 22% of them responded that they worked for 17-24 hours a day. Police constables from Bangalore city responded that they did not enjoy even one leave in a month.
Police Work Force in Karnataka
As per the data published by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), Karnataka has a sanctioned strength of 1,07,053 personnel, but the actual strength is 73,746. There is a vacancy of 33,307. When it comes to constables and head constables, the total sanctioned strength is 94,478; whereas there are actually 64,909 personnel in service. There is a vacancy of 29,569 police constables. The burden of 31% vacant posts is creating more pressure on the existing 69% of the constables.
The number of police personnel also affects the citizens. As per the sanctioned strength, there have to be 174.88 police personnel per lakh population. But actually, there are only 120.47 police personnel per lakh population. As per the sanctioned strength, 55.82 personnel will have to monitor 100 square Kilometers; where as there are actually 38.45 personnel per 100 square Kilometer. Since less number of police personnel is available per 100 square Kilometers, their work pressure is more and their responsiveness to citizens is affected.
Under the Constitution of India, Police is a State subject. It is the responsibility of the State Governments to maintain law and order. However, the Union exercises some degree of control by having a cenralised recruitment and management of Indian Police Service (IPS). In Karnataka, the main law applicable to the police force is the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 which is modeled on the Police Act of 1861 made by the Britishers. The Police Act of 1861 was drafted as a tool to crush dissent after the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.
In the year 2006, the Supreme Court in the case Prakash Singh v. Union of India laid down seven directives for police reform. Most of the states in India have not complied with the directions even after Supreme Court issuing contempt orders. Karnataka and Kerala have partially complied with the orders. There is an urgent need to look into the problems faced by the police personnel and make their working conditions humane. The humane treatment of police personnel will go a long way in the police treating the citizens in a humane way.