Working or being on duty for extraordinary number of hours everyday and on holidays and not having anything which can remotely resemble a work life balance, is the story of the Indian police, especially at the lower rungs from the Constable to the Inspector. Added to this woe, is the nature of work.
To give an example from a memory which has remained imprinted in my mind-I was on night round as a DCP in Mumbai city sometime in 2002-03 and it was around 2-2.30 in the night when I asked my driver to take me to Powai Police Station. That Police Station in those days was run from a small makeshift structure near a drain and infested with well fed mosquitoes. The Duty Officer was attending to a lady and her father. Their complaint was that after having lodged a case of marital harassment under section 498-A of the IPC with the Police Station a month ago, the lady was not allowed to enter her husband’s home and she was staying at her parents’ home since then. Her father was insistent that the Duty Officer take the lady to her husband’s home at that hour of the night right away and ensure that they do not evict her again. The Duty Officer was patiently explaining to them that they had taken all legal actions including arrests of the accused in-laws and that they needed to follow a process of hearing the other party to bind them to certain actions under preventive sections of law. He was also assuring them that the police will still help out first thing in the morning. But they continued arguing. I watched from a distance and I remember feeling awed at the officer’s patience.
This is a feature on any work day for a policeman-need for humongous amount of patience to continuously deal with people and their problems with no surety of having any me-time or family time even after 12 hours of work. Obviously, this is a recipe for mental and physical ailments for the policeman as well as his family.
To my pleasant surprise, I found that despite the many handicaps in terms of poor home environment and lack of opportunities and lack of funds even, there are many police children from Maharashtra Police who are doing higher studies in premium professional colleges like IITs, NITs, Medical Colleges and National Law Schools.
So how does the department take care of its men and women and their families?
The Welfare department of every Unit in Police raises money through compulsory contributions from the salary of its personnel at all levels, public donations, organising cultural programs or running commercial activities like flour mills, petrol pumps, grocery shops which are run by the police personnel on their premises. The profits from these activities are utilised for loans or grants for expensive medical treatments of family members(for illnesses which are not covered under the government scheme) or for operating facilities like crèches at Unit HQ, constructing Rest houses for overnight or short stays etc.
However, the raising and utilisation of funds for welfare is not uniform and efficient(for example, there are no standards for running clean and wholesome crèches). The Police department needs professionally run crèches at most workplaces since there is a substantial number of women in police and in the supporting clerical staff, there is need for healthy and environmentally positive atmosphere in the form of gardens/recreation facilities in the Police Lines which house police families, there is need for supplementation in school education through classes for English language for police children in the Police Lines, there is need for skilling in IT for jobs for college going students, there is need for small and large gyms in Police Stations for enabling the policemen to exercise while on duty.
For the most effective police welfare, all these needs must be addressed professionally rather than the current in-house manner of addressing welfare requirements. And in this, the society needs to step forward. One way to put in place a professional welfare architecture for Police is if the CSR provisions of the Companies’ Act 2013-which mandates annual utilisation of 2% of average 3-preceding financial years’ net profits of large Companies towards the Company’s Corporate Social Responsibily-can be used for operating crèches, job counselling centres, educational coaching, gyms etc and creating and maintaining gardens in Police Lines. The critical point is that the facilities should be operated through professionals directly by the Companies concerned or their Foundations and not by putting money into the Police Welfare kitty.
So for the optimum welfare of policemen, ideally what should happen is this-1. CSR funds from Companies should professionally run a significant number of activities as are permissible under the Companies Act, for police families, across all districts, while 2. the Police department’s own Welfare Fund should be used to ease financial burdens on police families, due to higher education or costly medical expenses, through scholarships, grants or no-interest loans, and to create police work related relief measures like mobile canteens, rest houses etc, i.e for activities which cannot be operated through CSR.
Policemen would gratefully serve the society better once their basic human anxieties for their family’s wellbeing and their health are met-by the joint efforts of the department and the society that they serve.