TAMIL NADU

Jayalalithaa all ears to policemen

CHENNAI July 26. Even as policemen have begun demanding permission to form an association, the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today heard their grievances at the Secretariat all through the day.

In the ``first-of-its-kind'' exercise, Ms. Jayalalithaa received petitions from policemen on requests for transfers and dropping of punishment proceedings. Hardships in personal life also figured in the representations made by 1,732 police personnel. Some women police personnel came with infants, hoping to get `special attention' from her.

As the Chief Minister could not meet them individually, they were grouped in 18 batches, according to the nature of their grievances.

Most of the requests were for transfer to their "native district for personal reasons". With the districts in the deep South accounting for a large percentage of recruitment, most requests were from those wanting to return to Kanniyakumari and Tirunelveli.

Efforts had been made to screen petitioners to avoid uncomfortable issues being raised. While the petitioners had to obtain clearance from their bosses, censoring of individual petitions was impossible. In any case, nothing could be done to prevent some of the personnel from having their say in front of the Chief Minister, a senior police officer admitted.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, in her opening remarks before hearing grievances, underscored the importance of the police in the smooth functioning of the society. Even in the face of a financial crisis, the Government granted several concessions to the police force. Noting that the police had to even risk their life while on duty, she said the Government had taken steps to boost the morale of the force.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said she was listening to their grievances with an open mind. While immediate redress was possible in some cases, it might not be possible in others. But she knew she was duty-bound to solve all of their problems.

The exercise lasted till the evening. Some policemen got impatient while waiting for their turn and picked up a quarrel with security men regulating them.

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