Our Friend The Policeman

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In the days of yore even before man had set foot on the moon and people were not as yet confined only to their flats, it was seen that society was more integrated and people recognized their neighbors and mingled with them socially and interacted with each other. There was a personal rapport amongst people and even their social helpers, as humanity and emotions still existed. One such rapport was the one that the community had with the Postman. The Postman had a special place in a common man’s life. He would be surrounded by people like a candy man or like Pied Piper. Children would run to spread the news that Postman has entered their locality. People were fond of the Magician –Postman who would bring them news of their relatives from far & near!

Another person who would attract the attention of children was the Policeman. Mothers sometimes even used his name to create fear among them to ensure that they follow simple rules like the drinking of milk timely and completion of studies of the kids. Though children were scared of the policeman, they were curious to know about him. I had a great fascination for Police, would even call him Dada (elder brother), observe him closely and would on some pretext talk to him on a daily basis. Dada would also respond lovingly!

During the independence struggle the image of the Policeman was tarnished. He was thought to be a traitor, who would brutally lathi charge ladies and gents who were participating in the freedom struggle. Circumstances made him a puppet in the hands of British rulers and hence his popularity was lost. Post independence the police force regained its stature as they are now looked upon as the guardians of free India.

Though my personal feelings remain the same as they were in childhood. When Prime Minister (PM) Indira Gandhi visited Mumbai, she was passing through Pedder Road and I was standing on the pavement next to the policeman to catch a glimpse of her. Unfortunately, not many can understand the emotional attachment in my mind towards the PM. A sensitive policeman saw me, he asked after the caravan passed through, “Could you see her?” and I sheepishly answered with a childlike enthusiasm, ” Oh yes thanks, Namaste!” and here turned my greetings with Namaste. The joy of seeing my favourite PM was multiplied because of the policeman’s response.

Though such incidents do occur, but generally, policemen today are distanced from the common man. From the humanitarian point of view, I feel apathy towards him. Like us, the policeman too are equally stressed due to various problems we face in today’s hectic life. His close family members also could be sick and unwell, and he and his family may be going through a rough patch. Irrespective of weather conditions he has to do his duty the whole day, sometimes even going hungry for the sake of his duty. The sacrifices that the police force and their families make is truly discounted and even their basic needs and requirements are not suitably addressed and this can make a beast out of a man! People are of the firm opinion that their problems should be solved by the government. The other day I was chatting with my Newspaper Agent–on the usual subject of rising prices! After collecting the bill when he was leaving, I causally asked him about his family. He said, apart from his family of seven children and his wife he had to take care of two widowed sisters in law, each having seven and five children respectively, that is not all. He also needs to provide for seven of his own siblings too. I wondered which government can ever solve the problems of a family of 30 members? Of course today’s society is under the influence of cinema so smuggling, rape, dacoity, thefts, murder, black marketing and corruption are very rampant. The crime arising from this perversity in the society has to be tackled by law and to implement the law the police are pressed on duties. A few educated and noble people cannot stop this bad influence, in fact many a times these situations even touch our lives. So, one can understand how easy it would be for a policeman to fall prey to such temptations and hence these policemen land up giving protection to these wrong elements. Higher authorities should be clean and free of corruption, and only then can they control the lower staff. When they are principled and determined, junior policeman also does his duty well. The police force is like a ladder and the officers in the lower rungs blindly follow their seniors. They are at times well aware of each others dark secrets and tend to connive with each other. Honest officers are like a ‘poisonous thorn’ to others. People with devious intentions and for personal gains would not mind making a scape goat of honest officers. They are sent messages ‘either you be a party to our group or leave’ by means and tricks, as if an unseen wireless message is directed to them. Even if his conscience directs him to spill the beans, he cannot overlook the orders of his boss’s boss–the Minister himself. For a youngster who joined the police force with high aim, patriotic spirit, and a feeling of devotion to his duty, these experiences of malpractices and corruption leave him disillusioned and helpless and out of sheer frustration he tends to succumb to the temptations before him and finally joins the flow. But even after that their thirst and greed is not quenched? Is it really ever enough?? He is cornered between the rich people (foot path dwellers included) whose demands he could not meet and people whom police are expected to protect. This burden of expectation takes a toll on him. Others are silent spectators and watch the fun as usual.

Recently, in an incident at Wankhede Stadium, an enthusiastic young boy rushed forward to shake hands with the cricketers, but the method used to control him was not at all appropriate. To show their sympathy towards the young lad, the mob took law into their own hands and damaged public property and this was totally unjustified. Even in this situation the police were defamed. As a result police are also annoyed with public and get angry whenever they get a chance (either way only police are blamed) or remain indifferent.

I hope one day I get a chance to see how these hooligan leaders who were part of organizing these bandhs, strikes, gheraos, pelting of stones, setting fires, shouting, road blockages and unrest in the public handle all of this if they get a chance to run the government for a while. I would love to observe these people running helter skelter instead of the public!

Even the educated people in the society are not aware how these honest police and their officers have limited powers in their hands and how law cripples them. For example footpath dwellers are fined such an insignificant sum that they can easily pay the same from their daily earnings of Rs.100 – 150/- and they can go back to continue with the same activity, the very next day. Security guards of these buildings protect these footpath vendors as they are hand in gloves with them. Unless called by the owners police cannot take any action when the people are inside a private property. Police vans and jeeps are not invisible, so footpath dwellers are cautioned, many a times this information is leaked by corporation employees or by the police themselves. Just to impress that they have taken some action; police shift these people from one place to another.

I am of the firm opinion that hawkers are pampered and given a lot of concession. The shopkeeper who sells from authorized shops have several expenses such as rent, money spent to acquire licenses, salaries of assistants and even stated bribe which he has to pay to get certain privileges colloquially called ‘Hafta’. Hawkers do not have any of these expenses. Inspite of paying Hafta they earn reasonably well and become rich even though they have to pay fine. Most of them work for the smugglers. Initially, they work to feed their families and as they prosper they become greedy to get rich and prosperous fast. This never ending greed keeps on increasing. Even though they earn in lakhs, they would continue to work on the roadside footpaths – that’s how they escape from paying income tax. In addition ‘this poor chap’ gets the sympathy from the public too!

The punishment decided by the court is sometimes not only ridiculous, but makes you angry with the system. One can only analyze any law from the Magistrate’s point of view. Many a times you feel that the law is not to defend the public but is made to give some respite to criminals so that they can continue criminality with added vigor.

Law is blind and stops at the scent of odour. For example when a pedestrian can not walk on the pavement because the hawkers have occupied that space, he has to go round about and start walking on the road. When he is hit by the vehicle, the driver is declared culprit not the hawker! Similarly, when a police officer orders tear gas so that the public at large should be safe – it is necessary that school and college kids, ladies, political leaders and party workers, self declared leaders are reassured and/or cautioned to move away from that area. Else police will be held responsible for the damage and will be forced to face trial for the same. If you whisk away the bad elements of the society, police will be left with no choice but to fire each other (firing amongst them).

To abide by law you have to take help of other departments too. You have to take care not to encroach on each others territory. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes very serious incidents occur.

It is a known fact that without formal introduction, an Englishman will not say hello to another person. Following protocol is mandatory. And even if a murder takes place how can you interfere? This is how the department works. The time spent by juniors in saluting seniors, maintaining hierarchy and even bureaucracy leads to an unnecessary waste of time and a hard core criminal manages to escape. In addition to all this they are controlled by the government order that the police are required to follow.

To say that they are officers is true but in reality hundreds of these officer and police working under them cannot take any decisions suo motu – using their authority, so finally they become puppets in the hands of the system. In addition to this an ever increasing population is a big botheration for the police force as it bleeds like an open wound. Many a policemen have had a heart attack while on duty. Let’s see what a traffic police undergoes if he gives more time to pedestrians, vehicle drivers get annoyed. People like me get upset, because the majority of people in India are pedestrians. We do not pay much attention to their problems and do not give them the necessary facilities. Owners park their vehicles wherever they get a place- because they cannot park in their houses; they pay the fine but not dutifully, but very unwillingly and against their wishes. In a way they are right when the population is increasing accordingly the infrastructure/facilities too should be, improved. Even the Gods cannot solve this problem so hoping that police can solve them is out of question. Police on duty will not allow a taxi man to park the taxi opposite the cinema hall–even though there are no customers and the customers get angry with the driver when he starts the car before they settle down. It is creditable that they reach their destination without breaking each others necks. When the police in uniform witnesses any accident he rushes the person to the hospital but a lot of time is wasted in conducting the ‘panchnama’. Then he is interested to see that the injured person should give his dying declaration before he breathes his last. In such cases the life/death of the accident victim is ignored specially if the police do not get the co-operation of the doctors. He then has to face the music of his seniors too as also the family members of the injured person. Recently, I read that police should be given intensive training in first aid could I suggest that they should be given 4 (four) hands to perform the various tasks as well – will the government take notice of this suggestion?

Police in the Customs Department is an altogether different category as they have special rights. I have collected all this information from the Dakshata Magazine Otherwise even I used to think that all these policemen belong to only one branch irrespective of the color of the uniform whether blue, white or any other. Now I have taken into account and collected information – which makes it clear rather how difficult the job of honest, dutiful police and their senior officers is. I now understand the challenges that this workforce faces on a daily basis.

I have always felt that when we say that police are turning their backs to perversity and dangerous situations we citizens are also turning a deaf ear to all these problems because we are scared, indifferent and a selfish lot. If we had taken enough care not to encourage corruption for e.g. buying cinema tickets in the black market, purchasing smuggled goods etc., and kept the population in control- (the hat would not have been much bigger than the head) and the situation would have been in control.

We know the story of a mother who failed in her duty, neglected the child’s pranks, and covered the small thefts he did. Had she not done the same her son would not have become a thief and dacoit and would not have been hanged to death. It’s a bitter truth about a mother who failed in her duties. Similarly, if we citizens had done our duties properly, police would not have behaved in such a frustrated way as we see now.

This means unless we are personally affected we will continue to overlook the small crimes and when the situation is beyond control, we expect the Police to eradicate the evil and dump the responsibility on their heads. Every educated, cultured citizen can become a private cop to some extent and stop the criminal sin time. Law has given the citizens special rights as highlighted in Dakshata, but when one has to implement / execute these rights a lot of problems arise. That’s when dutiful, alert citizens get fed up. This should be debated and should be brought to the notice of the Police Commissioner even at the cost of being black listed by the junior police officers. In the future I will share my opinion based on my experiences. I hope that other citizens too get motivated and shall readily provide similar inputs.

Snehprabha Pradhan

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