Comment

A matter of dress and discipline

Subodh Kumar Jaiswal assumes charge as CBI Director in New Delhi on May 26, 2021. Photo: CBI via PTI  

The Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, recently directed all officials in the agency to dress in formal clothes while on duty. This means that all the male officers should wear collared shirts, formal trousers and shoes and all the women officers should wear sarees, suits, or formal shirts and trousers. Casuals are a strict no-no.

Until a few decades back, there was no need to issue such an order. Police officers are normally trained to maintain decorum in office. But over the years, there has been more indiscipline, which has led to this situation. The enforcement of discipline originates from the top. The head of the organisation may himself be observing a proper dress code. But enforcement of discipline needs to flow down the line to the last man. Such enforcement builds up a culture and an ethos within the organisation.

When I joined the Central Reserve Police Force for my basic training in Neemuch, most of my batchmates who wore printed shirts were asked to pack them and never to be seen in them again. Only plain, striped, or checked shirts were to be worn. The barber turned us into easily recognisable trainees by giving us crew cuts. All this instilled a sense of pride in us.

Image of the police

Decorum isn’t about clothes alone. The Director General (DG) of Bihar Police, S.K. Singhal, issued instructions recently to all personnel to not use their mobile phones while on duty, except in exceptional cases, as it “affects the image of the police”. A strict enforcement of this order will not only enhance the image of the police but will go a long way in improving the efficiency of the force. Alertness, the hallmark of efficiency in a police force, will produce the desired results. When the police are seen chatting on mobile phones while on duty, it tends to tarnish the image of the police. They are seen as being negligent and inefficient in the performance of their duties. The responsibility largely devolves on the junior officers to check their subordinates from using mobiles.

A few years ago, the then DG of Bihar Police issued orders that police personnel should not sport any religious symbols on their uniforms or body that would indicate their religious leanings. The order was issued because many were sporting a ‘tilak’ on their foreheads while in uniform. As per regulations, policemen are debarred from wearing any religious marks on their face or uniform. Only Sikh personnel are permitted to wear turbans and grow a beard and moustache. There can be no compromise in projecting the secular nature of the police forces of the country.

The Police Commissioner of Delhi, S.N. Shrivastava, recently raised objections to civil defence volunteers donning the khaki, an exclusive preserve of the police. A civil defence volunteer was recently arrested for posing as a sub-Inspector and prosecuting those who were violating COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The matter is being taken up by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

When the police are smartly dressed and conduct themselves in a professional manner, they command the respect of the general public. Pot-bellied policemen project a bad image of the force. The Central Armed Police Forces rightly introduced the concept of an annual medical examination in the late nineties for all the personnel. This has not only kept them trim and fit but has also ensured that they are always in good health. Any medical deficiency can result in their losing promotions.

Once the pandemic ends, it is hoped that the health sector shows drastic improvement. It would be a step in the right direction if medical examinations are introduced in all government departments. If this is done, health issues can be detected in the initial stages and treated early.

The Central and State governments should issue orders as part of the conduct rules that all employees must be in formal wear when attending office. When private companies can enforce a dress code, there is no reason why government services shouldn’t.

M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF


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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 11:13:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-matter-of-dress-and-discipline/article34874196.ece

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