They walk several kilometres at a stretch to check each and every corner for a possible bomb which could kill hundreds. If a threat is detected, they put their own lives at risk to defuse the bombs, all to make sure that VIPs and other citizens can heave a sigh of relief. A small mistake could cost them their life, rendering their families without support. And yet, they are almost imploring to be made permanent employees of the Tamil Nadu government, so that they can have job security.
Several members of the Tamil Nadu Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad have now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to be made permanent employees of the government. They say that they have written to the TN Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Director General of TN Police and Commissioner of Police, Chennai, but they have not got any response yet.
In the letter submitted by them ‚Äėvery sadly‚Äô, they say that all the bomb-squad officers who have joined after 2009 have worked on contract ever since, with minimum pay-scale and no opportunity for any increment. They say that they are specially trained bomb technicians from the Indian Army and are instrumental in the security provided to CM, PM, President, Vice President, foreign dignitaries and VIPs. They were even appreciated for saving LK Advani‚Äôs life by detecting a pipe bomb in 2011. And in spite of this, they do not have any job safety, they say.
Speaking to The News Minute on the condition of anonymity, an officer of the bomb squad asks, ‚ÄúFirst, we did not ask to be appointed. There was a need for the Tamil Nadu government, so they reached out to ex-Army men. But if they call us in and treat us like that, is it fair?‚ÄĚ
We have written several letters to all the Home and Chief Secretaries since 2010. But they have not even given us a simple response yet. And they have continued their hiring. Just this year in August, they have announced appointment of 19 more people for the BDDS,‚ÄĚ he says. The issue has also been raised in the TN Assembly, but there has been no response from the government.
He further adds that when they were appointed, they were told that they are on contract only for a year as they do not know the rules and regulations of the TN police. ‚ÄúBut six years since, it has still not happened. We don‚Äôt get proper leave, we don‚Äôt get any bonus,‚ÄĚ says the officer.
Several officers of the BDDS were appointed by the TN government on their retirement from the Indian Army. They are recruited as head constables, sub-inspectors and inspectors each year and they receive a monthly salary of Rs 5,300, Rs. 8,500 and Rs. 11,000 respectively, according to ToI. The bomb squad was assembled in Tamil Nadu by the then Jayalalitha government after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbadur. Between 1991 and 2008, all officers of the squad were made permanent employees.
Officers also say that they do not get regular leave, and are not able to take their weekly off. Members of the bomb squad also lament stating that they are the only group of bomb squad members in the country who are on contract.
The contract officers also reportedly wanted to stage a protest in February this year, but the Chennai CoP S George stopped them after promising to sort out their issue in a month, they say.
A similar letter has been written to the President of India as well, copied to the Governor of TN and the Union Defence Minister, according to the officer in the squad.
TNM sought a response from TN Chief Secretary Gnanadesikan on the issue and is yet to receive one.