The Uttar Pradesh police department, the largest police force of any state in the world, is struggling to contain the rebel in the house. Constables, who are the very primary unit of police forces, have been protesting against the department, with a demand that the rules be changed. The protest is in the wake of the killing of Apple executive Vivek Tiwari, who was allegedly shot dead by a constable on September 29 morning.
Following the arrest of the accused cops, Prashant Chaudhary and Sandeep Kumar Rana, primary rank officers of the state police – going against the rule book – have observed Black Day twice in the past 10 days. The last Black Day was observed by them on October 10. Unlike before, the constables in this protest tied black band on their arms, but covered their faces with smiley masks and helmets to avoid any kind of departmental action.
The protesting constables, notwithstanding a warning by the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh against sporting black bands in solidarity with the two police constables, defied the top cop’s advice to take lessons from mistakes and maintain discipline.
They also appear to have given a damn to the biggest mass promotion in the history of the state, wherein 36,062 cops have been promoted. This includes 25,091 personnel being elevated from the post of constable to head constable and 2,197 promoted to be inspectors.
Earlier, the police department had suspended three constables for observing Black Day post the executive’s killing. Close to 40,000 constables are being given 12-day-long training by police, post Vivek Tiwari incident. These constables are from 2015 and 2016 batch.
So far, most of the media reports have suggested that the protest is being staged in support of the two accused constables But, the protesting cops are refuting this, and are claiming that the action against Chaudhary and Rana is just a trigger. They said that they are protesting for their long-standing grievances.
A constable, on the condition of anonymity, said that the protest is not for “justice” to their two colleagues, but for the basic rights of the very primary unit of this police force. “Every constable, no matter where he is posted, is responsible to bring revenue to the police station he is posted at. Is this not illegal or unethical? There is so much pressure from the upper lobby that we have to unwillingly indulge in activities which are against the rules,” he told Newsclick.
He further said that the constables are serving under such an “extreme pressure” that around 10 policemen (mostly constables) have committed suicide in the last one month, and many others have tendered resignations.
“There are infinite numbers of reasons behind the escalating pressure. There are no counselling centres in our department. There is a dearth of official leaves. I am not blaming the department, but it is the system that needs immediate overhaul,” he said.
Another constable from the 2007 batch said that there is a “serious lack of funds” in the police department, especially at police station, chowki and outpost level, due to which the men in uniform have to indulge in “extortion or bribe acceptance”.
“You can understand how grim the situation is with this instance. A police station does not have funds for even getting a photocopy done. It can be done in the office of the superintendent of police (SP) for free. But it is not feasible to travel 5, 10 or 15 kilometre for a single photocopy,” he said.
He went on to reveal that the budget to cremate a dead body is just Rs 700, but it takes a minimum of Rs 2,500 to cremate a body. “There is no budget to take an injured to the hospital. But, policemen do their duty. You can then very well understand the source of money for all of this. Everyone has a family here, and has liabilities. Why will any policeman spend from his hard-earned money in such cases?” he asked.
When asked about the amount they receive for the maintenance of their police stations or to feed someone in custody, station house officers (SHOs) associated with five police stations across different districts of the state did not reveal the amount they receive, claiming that they do not know about the exact amount.
“Agar fund hoga bhi to kitna hoga? Aap bhi jante ho ki kam hi hoga...jab jeb se hi jaana hai to ham bhi manage kar lete hain...custody walon ko do time khana dene ka niyam hai lekin ham unhen bhi chai-nashta dete hain...bas aise hi gaadi chal rahi hai (Even if we receive funds, how much it would be? You also know that it would be insufficient...if we have to bear the expenses from our pocket, we also manage it somehow...there is a rule to give food twice a day to those who are in police lock-ups, but we give them tea and snacks...this is how things are going),” an SHO posted in a rural police station in western Uttar Pradesh told Newsclick.
Some of the retired officials of the state police admit that few grievances of the protesting constables are genuine to an extent. They say insufficient funds to the police stations is one of the reasons behind large-scale corruption in the department.
“It is true that the police get insufficient budget for their basic needs such as stationary, diesel for vehicles, etc. The amount is not fixed, it varies from police stations to police stations. The smaller police stations get lesser amount than the bigger ones. In order to ensure functioning of the police stations in absence of the sufficient budget required, the policemen indulge into corruption. They extract money either from complainants or business establishments in the area,” said SR Darapuri, former inspector general of the UP Police.
But he denied the allegation that all officers are its beneficiaries. “It may be partly true that the amount collected or you can say extorted from people also goes to the superior officers. I am saying this, I know from my experience that all officers are not corrupt. Superior officers get their share, but it would be unfair to allege that all officers are involved in it,” he said.
He said the police are governed by law and rules, but simultaneously, it is also true that the men in uniform are the greatest violators of the laid down practices. “They abuse the rules in the name of crime control. The police have launched a crime control campaign every fortnight. Since assessment of the police force is based on crime statistics, the men in uniform manufacture fake crime figures, and frame innocent people and book them under Arms Act, NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, etc. to show their so-called achievements and promptness to curb crimes,” said Darapuri.
Simultaneously, he said, every government wants underrepresenting figures of the crimes taking place in his or her state to give out a message that they are doing better than their predecessors in improving law and order. “And to keep the crime figures low, the police do not register complaints. It is extremely difficult these days to get an FIR registered. I can say with conviction that even if the DGP goes to a police station concealing his identity to get his complaint registered, he won’t be able to get it done because even the officers don’t want the FIRs to be registered. The misuse of law is encouraged and supported by the senior officers,” he alleged.
However, Darapuri explained, the reality is that crime can be controlled to some extent, but cannot be reduced. “It is a universal phenomenon. Crime is an ever ending phenomenon and the factors such as unemployment, overpopulation, unequal distribution of resources, discrimination, injustices, etc. that lead people to indulge in unlawful activities are expanding,” he added.
When police force is misused for political gains and is made trigger-happy, the low-ranking officials might expect support from their superiors if and when they commit a mistake. “This is the root cause of the unrest in the UP Police erupted post murder of Vivek Tiwari. The constables must have been misused at several occasions by senior officers. Now when the two constables committed a mistake, rather a crime, by shooting the young man dead, they and their colleagues are asking for favour from their officers,” said the ex-officer.
He said the constable in question (Prashant Chaudhary) wanted to file an FIR, but it was not registered. “It should have been done as the CrPC says if there is an information of a cognisable offense, an FIR shall be registered. The investigation into the claims would have automatically revealed that his plea is not maintainable,” he added, pointing at the blunder the UP Police did in handling the situation.
Strongly advocating the implementation of police reforms, Darapuri said that the police should be given “operational independence and functional autonomy”. “They (the cops) should be free from all political interventions. They should be made answerable to law, and not the political leadership. Free registration of FIR is a must. An establishment board comprising senior officers should be constituted for transfer and posting of officers. This power should be snatched from the government to make police accountable to law, and immune from political pressure,” he concluded.