Remember your Policeman on Martyr's Day…?

A In today's society, the policeman's lot is not a happy one. In fact it is sad. His role as expected by the people is often at variance with the role legally assigned to him. Especially so, with the ever increasing demands for his intervention in a scenario of threats to internal security and the resultant hazards a policeman has to face in his day to day life.

The role expectation by the community at large, coming into conflict with his legally assigned role, creates a crisis of dilemma to the policeman. Society views the police as not only a law enforcing agency but also as an instrument of social service and an agent of social change - being the protector of the rights and liberties of the citizens.

The policeman in recent years has faced a negative image at the hands of those who make police-bashing their fashion, and from rights activists who have vociferously highlighted cases of flagrant human rights violations committed by security forces and other functionaries of the criminal justice administration.

One could argue, not without reason. There have been instances where, in their anxiety and over-zealousness to enforce law and curb terrorism, the functionaries of the criminal justice administration have often lost sight of the fact that they are dealing with human beings. The involvement of policemen and officers in some crimes invariably hyped by the media has also not helped add to their prestige or positive image.

In this context, on a day when police martyrs are honoured, it is necessary to spare a thought for the common law-enforcing policeman, and assess his role and the dilemma he faces vis-à-vis the expectations of the society that he serves; and also give him his due for the sacrifices he makes for society's welfare.

To meet the tasks assigned to him, the policeman today sacrifices his health and the well being of his family life. At times even loosing his life at the altar of duty. The long and irregular working hours that are his daily fare spell neglect for his family. Lack of time to devote to the institutional needs of his children often results in their poor academic achievement to end up even as school dropouts.

Because of work stress and rigours of working life, the policeman's family life turns problematic, crises ridden and greatly strained. Psychologically harassed, the policeman is often forced to carry his official worries to the confines of his home…. to infringe upon his domestic life, imposing on his domestic environment. The impact and influence of crime, crime and crime, very often results in tensions at home, in strained marital relationships and even criminality in police children.

The satisfaction level for accommodation for the Delhi Policeman is at a sad level of around 20%. Most ordinary policemen are forced to live in slums amidst the filth and squalor of the poverty stricken. Their children are forced to grow up side by side others in environs that breed crime.

A paradox also emerges from the fact that they are treated on par with the non-skilled category and consequently under-paid, while at the same time vested with powers that are colossal. Then expected to be the paragon of all virtues, without being equipped with sufficient infrastructure to hold on to his virtues or to insulate him from forces that make it possible for him not to practice his virtues.

When ordinary citizens sleep peacefully at night, it is the policeman that sacrifices his own sleep by patrolling the area to ensure there is peace and tranquillity and no criminal interference. When the rest of the country honours its great men by observing a holiday, the policeman has no share in it. Even on days like the Mahatma's Birthday the policeman's lot is to tread the streets - be to secure a VIP's movement or to prevent illicit liquor from being smuggled on a dry day. He is deprived of enjoying festivals - be it Diwali, Dussehra, Id or Christmas - which ordinary citizens enjoy in the company of their family members.

The stress and the tension in a policeman's job tells on his health. The long hours of duty and irritation flowing from a compulsion to respond to any emergent call, produces hypertension. The stress arisen from the need to handle situations, and at times the boredom to which some of them are subjected to while performing duties of mechanical nature for long hours, very often result in cultivation of addictive habits like smoking or drinking, which are injurious to health.

Today, death and danger constantly stalk the Indian policeman. The final and ultimate sacrifice is when he sustains injury, or loses his life while apprehending criminals, bad characters or faces riotous crowds, or is dealing with insurgent elements. It took over fifty years for the Government to decide on a befitting National Memorial to the police martyr. But NO… there are those around - intellectuals and know-alls with their high ideals who stay even this noble intent, with their so called 'public interest'.

Year after year we commemorate the policeman's sacrifice on 21st October and remember those who have paid the supreme price. But pay scant attention to the pressing need to understand or alleviate the living policeman's lot. It is necessary to evolve for the policeman, proper working conditions, proper political atmosphere, and revamp the total criminal justice system which is in a state of disarray. This will reduce the tendency for policemen to produce results by taking recourse to short cuts or questionable means even in today's circumstances of ever increasing pressure on all fronts.

900 words: 19.10.2004: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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