Karnataka will go to polls in the first half of 2018, but it is not the Opposition parties alone that the Congress will have to beat to continue in power, warned Shashidhar Venugopal.
Shashidhar is the President of the Akhila Karnataka Police Mahasangha, an organisation which had threatened to make the entire police force to strike en masse on June 4, 2016 demanding better work condition for state police personnel. He was, however, arrested in a case of sedition two days ahead of the protests last year, with the state government imposing Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to quell the agitation.
Speaking to TNM, Shashidhar has now warned the Siddaramaiah government that an overwhelming majority of policemen will vote against the ruling dispensation. "This dissatisfaction will prove disastrous for the Congress. We have got enough heartburn. We will show our anger and frustration at the ballot. Congress has treated us inhumanely. This is our time to give it back,” said Shashidhar.
Addressing a gathering of police personnel in Mysuru in October, 2016, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said that a decision favourable for lower ranked policemen will be taken.
But Sashidhar claims nothing has changed a year after the CM made the statement
"It is only an eyewash. There is no concern for the police community. Instead, policemen have been sent a message especially by the way of transfers. The Chief Minister, the Home Minister's adviser Kempaiah (former IPS officer) are politicising the police force," Shashidhar said.
Accusing the government of being biased towards certain police personnel, he added, "They transfer their own men to better posts. With this, they like to take political advantage. In my opinion, there is an undeclared emergency in the state."
He also alleged that CM exerts pressure on the political hierarchy, stating, “This violates Supreme Court guidelines. They make police officers knock the door for favourable positing."
The Akhila Karnataka Police Mahasangha is demanding the same pay structure for police personnel as their counterparts in Telangana. Shashidhar said, “We have demanded that we want the same pay structure as Telangana. A newly inducted constable gets around Rs 14,000. This after they are made to work 14-16 hours in a day. Then he is victimised, he is intimidated. In the name of discipline, they exploit us.”
He added, “We maintain internal security but we are treated as second-class citizens."
Besides better pay, the Mahasandha is also demanding an eight-hour workday. “Even the International Labour Organisation mandates eight hours with a maximum of two hours of overtime. More than this, he won’t be fit for performing his duties,” he said.
Shashidhar claimed that some wings of the police force like the state reserve police are given step-motherly treatment, which is not the case in other states.
“DGP RK Dutta has submitted a report on this but the government is dilly-dallying on this issue too,” he said.
Although, the ADGP Raghavendra Auradkar committee recommended a 35% hike for the state police force, the Karnataka government announced an increase in salary of Rs 2,000 through two new allowances.
“We are likely to set up a pay committee next year and this matter will be referred to them,” CM Siddaramaiah had said in November 2016.