No end to Karnataka cops’ woes as govt promises ‘8,000 recruitments’ for third year in a row

There is a shortage of over 25000 police personnel
No end to Karnataka cops’ woes as govt promises ‘8,000 recruitments’ for third year in a row
No end to Karnataka cops’ woes as govt promises ‘8,000 recruitments’ for third year in a row

All Ranganatha has ever seen his children do, is sleep and they aren’t newly born infants. Ranganatha (38) is a constable with the Karnataka Police and says he, like everyone else in the constabulary, is terribly over-worked.

“When I leave home my children are sleeping. When I return too they are asleep. My children and I hardly interact,” Ranganatha* says. The hours and days run into each other, Ranganatha easily works over 12 hours a day. Getting a day off every week simply never happened. “Even if someone from the family is on their deathbed, they wouldn’t give us a day off,” Ranganatha says. In his opinion, at least some of the pressure on the constabulary is because of the serious shortage of staff.

Just months after he took charge, the then home minister KJ George had promised to recruit 8,000 constables into the state police. For a constabulary that is already over-worked, this was just like the beginning of a series of mirages that thirst-crazed people see in the desert.

Since George’s promises in September 2013, little has changed except that it is now his successor, Home Minister G Parameshwara who is making statements about “soon” recruiting “8,000 cops” in a “phased manner”. He started parroting the line last December, two months after he took charge. For close to a decade before that, vacant posts had largely remained unfilled, except for one break in the outgoing BJP government in 2012. 

It was around last December that a group of people approached V Shashidhar, head of the Akhila Karnataka Police Mahasangha, asking him to lead a protest demanding certain basic rights.

On Wednesday night, he was picked up but the police. 

But with the government’s attitude being one of all talk and no action, a section of the constabulary has thrown caution to the winds, directly challenging their superiors with their impending mass leave protest.

The main demands of the Mahasangha include the implementation of an eight-hour shift, a pay hike and a mandatory weekly off. However, a senior official from the home ministry told The Hindu that if the demands were to be met, the force would have to be increased by one-third.

Against the sanctioned strength of around 96,000 personnel only 70,000 posts have been actually filled in the state police; a shortage of over 25,000 police personnel or 28%.  With over 5,000 cops retiring this year, the situation could worsen.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) of 1968 in a bid to subdue the proposed June 4 protest by the constabulary. Anyone who participates or instigates the protest could be arrested. The Health Department has warned government doctors across the state against issuing medical certificates for medical leave for policemen.

While the government is going all out to pre-empt the protest, constables continue to pour out their woes.

Jayanna says the lack of fixed timings has taken a toll on his personal life. “We are unable to attend to family problems because of the lack of time. Many of us don’t lead a peaceful family life. The worst is when we are sent on outstation duties,” he said.

Stories on social media about the salaries and perks granted to constables were “all false”, Jayanna says, adding: “Money has been deducted from the meagre salary that we get.”

Kavitha, who happens to be three months pregnant, said that apart from meagre salary, women don’t get proper amenities while on the field. “I’m only planning on applying for maternity leave two months later. Until then, I am supposed to work like any other constable with no relaxation in timings. But this not the only problem. Women face problems during their periods too,” Kavitha said.

(The names of all constables have been changed on request)

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