Every day is a trial for the overworked and underpaid constables
A head constable working in the East Division of the city, 50-year-old Ranganath (name changed) recently missed an important family function.
He had to make several trips to meet a retired Director-General of Police just to seek his recommendation for two days’ leave. “There is no chance of getting leave without recommendation from an influential IPS officer,” he said, his voice laced with bitterness. “I can’t remember the last time I spent quality time with my family. I don’t know if my children are studying properly or are getting spoilt,” he laments.
In his 30 years of service, he has rarely reached home before midnight but has never woken up a minute later than 5.30 a.m. “I have to be back at the station at 8 a.m. without fail,” and a few minutes’ delay results in the most demeaning abuses from the senior officers. The globally accepted labour law, which dictates that a working day should not exceed eight hours, is an alien concept in this hostile environment.
From his house in a lower-income neighbourhood at Kengeri, it takes him at least two hours to get to work. “I cannot afford to rent a house in the city,” he says. As if things were not bad enough, constables such as Mr. Ranganath have to swallow their pride in the face of the daily humiliation they are subjected to by their superiors who are in turn berated by their superiors.
So, who do constables like Mr. Ranganath take out their frustration on? “My wife rarely raises contentious issues with me fearing my reaction,” said Sadashiva, another constable from the West Division. He confesses he often takes out his frustration on the very people he is oath-bound to protect. “People think we are loutish and don’t know how to behave. What do they know what our lives are like?” he says.
Recently, Mr. Sadashiva’s mother had to be hospitalised following an emergency. He could not be by her side. “That night I cried and cried and decided to retire… but all I could do was cry and get back to duty,” he says.
All police officials are entitled to free bus travel. But the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation has a rider that only those in uniform can avail themselves of this benefit. “After spending nearly 14 hours on the job in a thick uniform and heavy boots, a constable must remain in them on his way home to get a free ride on a bus,” Mr. Sadashiva commented caustically.