Earlier this month, a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer asked DMK MP Kanimozhi if she was an Indian after realising that she did not speak Hindi. Ms. Kanimozhi wisely chose to walk away and took to Twitter to air her annoyance. Though the CISF ordered an inquiry into the incident, the matter invited much media attention, leading to debates on television channels on Hindi imposition. The incident impelled former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to tweet that he had “ experienced similar taunts from government officers and ordinary citizens who insisted that I speak in Hindi during telephone conversations and sometimes face to face”. He added that all Central government employees must be made to speak in both English and Hindi.
At times, CISF personnel exceed their brief. Many of us who have travelled by air or metro rail would be aware of this. Despite their misdemeanour, not many passengers care to protest or lodge formal complaints as no one wants to be involved in such a time-consuming exercise and pursue the matter. As a result, many CISF personnel continue to be arrogant. At times, they can be seen chatting among themselves at airports while passengers await their scanned bags after security check.
Proficiency in English
Though reports state that CISF personnel are imparted training in basic proficiency in English, not much seems to have been done in this direction. A computer-based English language lab is reported to have been installed at the CISF’s National Industrial Security Academy in Hyderabad where officers recruited to the CISF are imparted basic training. Such labs need to be set up at the recruit training centres too, where the constabulary can acquire working knowledge of English.
Speaking, reading and writing in English should be made mandatory in basic training so that officers do not have to struggle with learning English after joining duty. Not only will this help personnel build confidence but it will also help them interact easily with people not just at airports and metro stations but also at government buildings. A leaf can be taken out of the Air Force Training Institutes where recruits with hardly any knowledge of the language graduate as smart English-speaking personnel after they complete basic training.
There was a proposal to impart language training in Spanish, German and French to some selected personnel to enable them to easily converse with foreign passengers but this seems to have been shelved. This proposal should be revived. Our country’s image will be enhanced when foreigners landing on our soil find themselves being assisted by CISF personnel speaking in their own native languages. Personnel who acquire fluency in these languages could also be used as interpreters when foreign delegations visit our country. As an incentive, they can be paid foreign language allowance.
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Selection of personnel for airports should be done in a meticulous manner. Not only should they be sober, smart and mature in their behaviour but also well informed about important personalities of the State and the Centre. Needless to say, the visible presence of officers – Assistant Commandants or Deputy Commandants – round the clock at airports will avert ugly situations. Officers can guide and train personnel while on duty. Swift disciplinary action against those found misbehaving with passengers will go a long way in curbing unfortunate incidents. Personnel who are erratic in their behaviour need to be identified and removed from airport security duties.
M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), Central Reserve Police Force