Tired of terrible work conditions, Karnataka’s police constables protest with mass leave applications

Around 50,000 cops have applied for leave
Tired of terrible work conditions, Karnataka’s police constables protest with mass leave applications
Tired of terrible work conditions, Karnataka’s police constables protest with mass leave applications
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By Sahana Maddali

Alleging that they are subjected to human rights violations on an everyday basis, a large section of lower rungs of Karnataka’s police force has applied for mass leave in the first week on June.

Organizing under the banner of the Police Mahasangha, a large section of the state’s constabulary has applied for leave on June 4, as protest against severe disciplinary actions, wage inequality and long working hours. Around, 50,000 constables have applied for leave. The protest is mainly organized by the lower rung of the police force, not the senior officers.

It is rare for the police to protest. Being in the “disciplinary unit” themselves, police are not allowed to stage a protest without the permission of higher authorities. They are liable to face immediate dismissal from the force if they do so, they say.

After repeated requests to the state government and lack of support from the courts, some police personnel approached V. Sheshadri, president of Akhila Karnataka Police Maha Sangha (AKPMS).

“They told me that all policemen should go on leave on the same day to pass a strong message to the government and they requested me to lead the movement, as there is no proper forum to fight for the rights of policemen. Then I started working towards it and it gained support from thousands of policemen and also various other organisations,” Shashidhar told Deccan Chronicle.

Of 85,000 policemen in Karnataka, the 65,000 who are constables face most harassment, he added.

Asked if they had received any threats after applying for leave, police personnel said they could not disclose the information.

Bengaluru police officers say they experience human rights violation on a daily basis.

A Sub-Inspector in Andhra Pradesh earns between Rs 45,000- Rs 50,000 a month. A Head Constable of seniority in Karnataka earns only about Rs 30,000 - Rs 35,000 a month. There is a wage difference of Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000 (30%-40%) in the two states. In Karnataka policemen are not given overtime wages for night-shifts or extra field-work.

As a consequence of low wages, police personnel face difficulty in acquiring loans from banks, they say. As they are not given medical benefits, they have to scrounge to juggle educational and medical expenses of their families, said one constable.

To top it off, cops start their day at 8 am and more often than not are only relieved after midnight – which is more than 15 hours of duty daily, while most central and state labour laws specify an eight-hour work day. The remaining few hours is all they have left for both sleep and interaction with their families. They consider themselves lucky if they get 2-3 days of approved leave every three months.

Most of constables on the force – whether men or women – are married and have children. Spending quality time with family, attending children's parent-teacher meetings etc., are “only dreams”, they say. Sometimes the disconnect is such that the constables – both women and men – are not even aware of which classes their children are in class how they do at school.

As a result of a stressful life and frustrations, majority of police personnel have turbulent marriages that often end in divorce.

One constable commented on the perception of cops. "People think policemen are crooks and corrupt, but only when you join the force do you understand their frustrations."

"We are not saints who have voluntarily given up our social lives,” said another constable who declined to be named. “We need to look after our families.”

The only police protest in recent public memory is when a number of police personnel took to the streets in protest when a senior cop heading their police wing was accused of filming a young woman on his mobile phone.

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