What is however haunting me for the last 25 years is, a fear in my mind, which I believe has lately rendered me fatigued. I am absolutely certain that many of my colleagues in the line of duty will be ungrudging to share the same experience with me.
Neither I am self-pitying, nor it is my intention to make the contents of my write-up polemical for grabbing media attention. The fact is, I finally decided to break the shell of timidity and come out with an account of the fear which is eating into the very fabric of subordinate rank like a termite.
An officer-in-charge of a police station is confronted with so many fears that naming a few would amount to suppression or minimization of facts. Hence, an elaborate narration would be highly appropriate.
The biggest fear which is lurking in my mind is the fear of too many occupational hazards, which now-a-days keep surrounding an officer with their vicious tentacles. The frequent and imminent problem is, getting superseded by a junior or flak from superiors which has the potential of ruining your career. If you get punished for your misconduct and dereliction of duty, then there is nothing to complain about. But when you are victimized for some extraneous reasons such as biased action by peers or, vendetta borne out of political ambition or a wounded ego or, incidents which are blown out of proportion by media hype or slanderous act of a sycophant or, an accidental or unintentional omission on your part, which is quite possible considering the burden of work, then it is a matter of grave concern. Interestingly enough, you are always caught unaware in these traps.
Next is the fear of retribution. A subordinate police officer, even if she/he is 48 years of age, is so much prone to retributions that he/she becomes timid and indecisive over a period of time. A mishandled situation may land you in jail or it may cost you your job. Very few would agree with me on this score. So in order to clarify the matter I have to cite some examples. Take the case of a person dying in police custody, not due to torture but for an old ailment. Even then your life becomes miserable. Your career will soon be in jeopardy. You may face a judicial probe which would give you tremendous amount of tension. People may eye you with suspicion and soon you’d find yourself abandoned. But can you afford to continue in a police station by not arresting an offender? I know a senior who was incarcerated for four years for the death of a person in custody, who before being handed over to police, was assaulted by an unruly mob while committing theft. Another example is the risks of dispersing an irate mob. If you use force, it must be minimum, even in the face of grave danger to you. No one comes to your rescue, if a death of a rioter is caused in the process of counter-strike during an operation. So many Thana officers have gone on premature retirement on the aforesaid grounds that, it is difficult to name one.
Fear of being treated like a social outcast is another area of concern. The public sentiment is such that Police Department is taken thanks to our Bollywood movies as a department of corrupt and unjust officers. Getting suspended from active service has become a common matter these days for a subordinate police officer. You may get suspended for any reason without even the initiation of a formal inquiry, like adverse newspaper publication, motivated demands by a group of persons of your jurisdiction, even for a grievance petition alleging your inaction and so on. It is used as a damage control method. Just butcher the scapegoat to keep the evil spirit at bay. But friends,you have to watch the condition of the officer and his family who undergo such an ordeal. Overnight they become social outcasts. No one will come to their rescue or say some comforting words. Friends will soon vanish in thin air. Some may jeer at you in public for their sadistic pleasure. If you do not believe this, ask your neighbourhood thana officer.
Fear of getting an adverse remark by a superior for not promptly attending to report of a complainant always lurks in the mind. Rule is well settled that, in absence of the officer-in-charge, it is the duty of the suborinate staff to attend to reports and other police station work. But does any one know that the police stations of Odisha are functioning with a sanctioned staff strength of 20 years old. Can you imagine, we have already carried out two census in the meanwhile which say that there is a 40 per cent increase in population. Let us also speak about the increase in volume of road traffic, real estate business, production of consumer durables, construction, erection and installation of factories, roads, buildings and bridges. The country is rapidly emerging as a developed nation. Do you now think that reporting of incidents/crimes would be same as it was 20 years back? When augmentation of the sanctioned strength is not forthcoming, suppression of cases is the only alternative you are left with.
Fear of losing credibility before the society in general and family in particular haunts many of us as the burden of work becomes heavier day by day. Very few know that 30 per cent of thana officers are afflicted with diabetes, 20 per cent have high blood pressure, 05 percent have cardiac problem and rest have one or more diseases of other variety for the obvious reason of stressful working condition and disorderly life-sytle. Finally, who does not want “THE POLICE MEDAL”?
I have no one to go to — my friends say it is our fate. However, I still have the hope that the cure for such a malady rests with a conscious and progressive society, and possibly a future generation. That is where I am turning to appeal….I think, I should go now — it is 1 AM and I have to go home to get up tomorrow early morning for the Republic Day Parade.