Welfare of Policemen

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.                                                                                  

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From Ideas to Actions

I’m back with the Police department after a very enjoyable deputation stint with CIDCO. I’ve been thinking about what I can do from my current position in the State Police HQ to implement the ideas that I’ve been blogging about.

Interestingly, I found an order of the Ayush dept of Government of India, which mentioned that the government will fund police departments at the district level across the country for better health of policemen through yoga. The funding was substantial too – monthly payment for the yoga teacher and for record keeping and a one time grant for fitting out a location for the yoga classes, in each district that would take part in the scheme. This will be a great idea to implement in two ways-1. Daily yoga classes for police and their families in Police Lines in every district-it would be great for their health and the benefit should be measurable, and 2. Daily morning meditation (strictly secular, no-chants) open to public, at a public place like a municipal garden etc especially in geographical areas which experience frequent public order disturbance-this would again be good for the health of policemen if people become calmer and there are fewer law and order situations for the police to handle. Point no 2 should also be measurable. The critical to-do here is to be able to engage with institutions of repute in yoga and meditation for implementing the program in every district in Maharashtra. I would eagerly wait to see the results on both these counts, in a few years!

Another useful thing to do, is to handhold till it takes root, the budgetary funding of police stations in every district of Maharashtra. The government order needed to make this a reality, already exists. A 2006 Maharashtra government order had enabled the Police Station In-Charge to be made a Drawing and Disbursing Officer(DDO) for incurring office expenses and for payment of the police station telephone bills. Strangely, this order has been implemented-only in little measure though-in only one district in Maharashtra till date.  It will indeed be an empowering thing for the SHO to have government funds at his/her disposal to run his/her police station on a day to day basis. It may also have a bit of impact on ‘ necessary corruption’!

I think another very creative thing to do would be to encourage SPs in various districts of Maharashtra to ideate on community policing projects for their areas, prepare project proposals and send these proposals to government for approval of budgetary funds. I’m sure there will be enough enthusiasm from the young officers on this. If sustained over four-five years, budgeted community policing/preventive policing projects could bring about better rapport of police station officers with the people, reduce local crime and also earn greater respect for their work.

I think these and such to-do’s can be common targets for police departments across all states in India. And importantly, they are completely within the capabilities of the police departments themselves to do.

Meditation and Policing

  I had enrolled for an interesting course on Coursera recently. Buddhism and Modern Psychology, taught by Robert Wright of Princeton Univ. Though the spirituality of emptiness and detachment may be of interest to only a few people, the most practical takeaway from the course was regarding the importance of meditation in bringing a sense of calm through an experiential understanding of the oneness of everything. I also thought that if practiced on a wider scale, meditation would be a very useful tool for quietening down the growing noise and anxiety of intolerance in society, and therefore a good preventive tool for the ‘law and order’ police. So to encourage meditation gatherings in public places, especially in areas of repeated conflict, can it be one manner of preventive policing methodology?

The issues of freedom of speech and police actions regarding the same, which have come to the fore from the recent JNU incident, are interesting to look at, on this background. There have been instances in the past too when questions arose on how much freedom should be protected by the police when certain kinds of public utterances can anger a section of the people and possibly vitiate public peace. This question is really more regarding the extent of tolerance by the society in general, to free speech. 

Police have a clear legal responsibility  to take actions to prevent disruptions of public peace and they also simultaneously have a clear responsibility to protect individual freedoms granted by the constitution. In a tolerant society, these two responsibilities should not conflict-at least not too often. In India, however, these conflicts have been happening and the police response has tilted more towards protecting public peace vis a vis the protection of freedom of speech. This is understandable as the police see their role primarily as keepers of ‘order’, not as social change agent. 

So to my way of looking at this problem, it appears that police needs to think outside the framework of only enforcing the laws, if any lasting and satisfactory solution is to be found. One way would be to think of ways to reduce the emotional excitability of the society. It will create a more peaceful and tolerant society.  And meditation is one such way. 

Changing Minds-Lecture Series 2

  After the first lecture last month in this series, which made us reflect on philosophical questions, our program’s second lecture was on the value of commitment.

 Shri Atul Karwal, an IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre was our speaker for this program. His talk was on finding your dream-which in his case was to climb the Mt Everest-and persevering with efforts and positivity, to achieve it, and it was very inspirational. The q&a following the talk gave me the idea that such sharing of experiences by achievers can make people shed their fears of dreaming big and achieving excellence. And any organization where employees dream big will surely be an extraordinary organization! And Vigilance departments may need to shut shop!!
The program is available on CIDCO’s Changing Minds YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/bvQBd4sRJNU

Lecture Series-Changing Minds-1

 The first of the monthly lecture series for 2016, on the ‘Changing Minds’ project was a grand success-as I could gauge from the feedback from our employees😊. The speaker was Dr Devdutt Pattanaik. And in keeping with his reputation as an effective communicator, he mesmerised the audience with his wisdom.
The program can be seen from the following YouTube link..Devdutt Pattanaik at CIDCO

This is experimental and I am excited to see if it’s possible to consolidate extraordinary goodness into an organization’s dna by helping employees think on values as a guiding force in life.

The Internet of Things..

 I have been involved since the last more than a year and half in conceptualising for implemention, the Disaster Mangement Center for CIDCO.  I initially visited the Mumbai DMC run by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, and then at CIDCO we had a pilot project in the monsoons of 2014 and 2015, called Emergency Operations Center (EOC), wherein calls of Navi Mumbai residents  regarding issues in public spaces, like tree fall, road flooding, snake bites etc were attended to urgently through this Center. The average resolution time in the pilot was 1-5 days last year and 0.95-3 days this year. So we are feeling confident that we can run a useful Emergency Operations Center which will operate all the year round, 24*7.  The process of tendering for a project management and implementation agency will start shortly. We have plans for call center like operations and also for pan-city resiliency building measures through training on fire and earthquake safety, by this Center.

An interesting thought came to me recently. Since this Center will run on data-data on peoples’ day to day grievances on public spaces and resolution of the same, and data on contacts of resolving agencies,  can we pool in more data and create an IOT (Internet of Things) Center, to do smart governance for Navi Mumbai?

The Center will be part of CIDCO’s ongoing CCTV project for Navi Mumbai police, wherein the CCTV locations which are on Navi mumbai’s critical infrastructure, like major water supply pipelines, the holding ponds which are civil creations to control inflow and outflow of water vis a vis the sea, and other structures, will be watched by CIDCO officials through this Center. The Center will be equipped with a GIS map of Navi Mumbai. So if we can pool in health data on epidemics of diseases like malaria and dengue, which are much prevalent in Navi Mumbai, a software for hotspot mapping of evolving disease locations on the GIS map, can be very helpful in targeting remedial civic measures like fogging or better checks on water stagnancy conditions at construction sites, to cure the problem. This data pull from the urban health centres and hospitals of Navi Mumbai can be done through an ‘app’ to be developed for the same. Similarly, movement of garbage collection vehicles can be tracked by GPS on the GIS map at the Center. Both these datasets are related and will result in giving better public health services to the city’s residents.

The EOC will, of course, be hearing and resolving public complaints relating to the state of municipal  services in the city. This data can also be used as a management tool, by picking out on the map, concentrations of various types of complaints area wise across the entire city, so that there is better focus and direction by the senior management on resolving the issues and public satisfaction at CIDCO’s services will surely rise.

Further, apps can be developed by CIDCO and offered to senior citizens and the women citizens of Navi Mumbai for urgent emergency communication to the EOC. EOC can act as a first responder to senior citizens calls by despatching  a well equipped cardiac ambulance. Even in the situation of crime against senior citizens, a medical response is the first need. In case of calls by women through the app, the same can be automatically redirected to the police control room as police must be the first responders on this. CIDCO can thereafter work with police using this data, to create safer public spaces for women through better lighting, guarding vacant and dangerous plots etc. Apps can also be developed to pool in data of school bus movements on the GIS maps. This app can make the bus movement data visible to school authorities and parents.

Also, like the disease hotspot mapping idea mentioned above, software for crime hotspot mapping at the police CCTV command Center will smarten up crime tracking and its prevention by police-multiplying the safety environment for the city.

Lots of ideas and work to do. But it would be very satisfying to help create this EOC as an  infrastructure for making the city of Navi Mumbai safe in a smart way.