By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi
was introduced to the term 'Daroga' for the first time on that
fateful night of 25th June 1975 - the time recorded in the annals
of our Nation's history as the night when Emergency was declared.
As SDPO Parliament Street and supervising the nightlong swoop
of arrests, a very young me in the wee hours of the morning had
stepped also into the Dr Bishambar Das Marg residence of political
heavy weight Raj Narain - remembered more for successfully petitioning
the Allahabad High Court against Indira Gandhi in an election
petition… and pictured always with the green bandana kerchief
tied round his pate. Shell shocked as he was with the turn of
events, I remember him placing his hand on my shoulder, addressing
in Hindi this naïve… then not much Hindi comprehending
South-Indian me as "Daroga-ji…" and resignedly
uttering, "…..'tis not your fault; after all you are
doing your duty!" It was only later, when I enquired of my
Inspector, I learnt the term daroga was normally reserved for
an officer-in-charge of a police station in UP - invariably then
a sub-inspector…. but by then though it was too late to
correct the venerable leader's perception to tell him that I was
way above that rung in the hierarchical level.
indigenous system of police in India in comparison was no different
from that of Saxon England, organized on the basis of land tenure
and collective responsibility of the village community. Like the
'Thane' in the time of King Alfred, the Zamindar in India with
a number of subordinate tenure-holders was required to maintain
public peace. The village responsibility was of its headman, assisted
by one or more village watchmen. On the existing structure of
local responsibility for policing, the Mughals introduced the
Arab-cum-feudalistic institutions of the Faujdar and the Kotwal.
The faujdar being the military officer cum chief police officer
for executive authority in the District, with the Sigdars for
its paraganas under his command. The Zamindars now supplanted
the village headmen in their police functions with control over
the village watchmen, and assisted the Faujdar and his subordinates.
The Kotwal - for police and muncipal administration in large towns
was paid a heavy salary to defray the expenditure of a large body
of peons, horse patrols, spies and so on. The Lord Justice - Mir-e-Adil,
with the Kazi to conduct the trial and state the law, administered
the advent of the British knocking out the central authority of
the Mughals, there was break down of law and order, with a free
for all for dacoits, robbers and marauders. Zamindars, village
watchmen and even higher officers connived at crime and harboured
offenders in return for a share of the booty. When the East India
Company acquired the Diwani in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1765
the extremely unsatisfactory state of law and order could not
be bettered with the remedies adopted, since consideration of
finance always stood in the way of real reforms. Initially the
Zamindars were relieved of their liability for police service
and the duties of Faujdars were ultimately transferred to the
Company's covenanted servants who functioned as judges and magistrates.
It was at this stage after 1781 that for police purposes the magistrates
took under them a staff of Darogas with subordinate officers and
a body of peons.
charge of a daroga averaged about 20 square miles, with 20 to
50 armed 'Barkandaz'es under him and all village watchmen subject
to his orders. For every dacoit arrested and convicted he got
a reward of Rs.10/- and ten percent of the value of all stolen
property recovered! The office of Kotwal remained in the cities,
but a daroga was appointed for each ward to assist him.
his book of the early 70s on 'Police Administration in India',
Sharat Chandra Mishra records that the Daroga system proved far
from satisfactory. The Report of the First Indian Police Commission
1902-03 had earlier recorded: "There was marked increase
in crime everywhere; robberies and murders, accompanied by the
most atrocious and deliberate cruelties, were of frequent occurrence;
gangs of dacoits roamed unchecked about the country and, in the
expressive native phrase, 'the people did not sleep in tranquility'.
In large measure this was attributed due to the inadequacy of
the police establishment, absence of assistance which was formerly
available from the local population; a much higher degree of proof
now required by courts; the criminal's realisation how difficult
it was to secure his conviction; and punishments now turning milder
- with no mutilation, indefinite or perpetual confinement, and
torture no longer the practice as was previously!
recorded a hundred years ago - perhaps needing no change in their
application to the state of affairs today! And, I believe, the
term Daroga continues to be in vogue in UP even today….
while a much (rightly or wrongly) maligned he, with his law-enforcing
counterpart elsewhere in the country, continues his battle to
find his due place under the sun in the service of his community!
author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell
or his email: email@example.com
) 800words. 10.03.2003:Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725
Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http://
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