August 20, 2022
“Only that position can impart dignity in which we do not appear as servile tools but rather create independently within our circle.” ? Karl Marx (1818-1883), German philosopher, historian, economist, political theorist and socialist revolutionary.
In India many colonial hang-ups survive through lack of vigilance or silent perpetuation of illegality. One such was highlighted in a recent article in The Hindu which is excerpted here.
As the country celebrates 75 years of Independence, the Madras High Court is seeking to rid the police force of the colonial legacy of employing police personnel as orderlies at the homes of senior police officers. “Such uniformed trained police personnel are performing the household work and menial jobs in the residence of higher officials at the cost of the taxpayers. Public has a right to question the mindset of the higher officials,” observed Justice SM Subramaniam in his recent interim order. In July 2022, the judge had directed the State Home Secretary to take steps to remove uniformed personnel engaged as ‘orderlies’.
The orderly system was officially banned in 1979. Yet, it is common practice to see men in khaki trousers and white crew neck banians running household errands for senior police officers and their family members. In some instances, even retired top officers have retained orderlies at state expense.
Going by rough estimates, a few hundreds of police personnel are deployed in the residences of serving and retired police officers. They don’t perform any police duty, but get a travelling allowance and extra time remuneration. These extra perks without performing any particularly difficult chores keep them happy.
But the orderlies are technically on the rolls of police stations, armed reserve or battalion strength. Their absence from official duties only adds to the burden of the already understaffed police force. The use of a few hundreds of vehicles for personal use again leaves Inspectors and Sub-Inspectors without vehicles. This leads to allegations that they force complainants to hire private vehicles for investigation purposes.
When the High Court took up the issue of the orderly system in 2018, the then DGP gave an affidavit claiming that it has been abolished. With the court bracing to pronounce its verdict, incumbent recently called for an urgent meeting of senior police officers in Chennai and urged them to send back police constables, head constables and other rank personnel working as orderlies in their camp offices or residences for police duties. He also asked police officers above the rank of SP to give an undertaking that there are no orderlies at their residences.
Rights activists have also argued that the use of uniformed personnel and police vehicles for personal use amounts to criminal misconduct as the officers draw an allowance of ?10,000 for engaging servants at home without actually engaging them. Their contention stems from Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 which states that a public servant is said to commit the offence of criminal misconduct if he/she dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriates or otherwise converts for his/her own use any property entrusted to him/her or any property under his/her control as a public servant or allows any other person so to do or if he/she intentionally enriches himself/herself illicitly during the period of office. It is hoped that on the court’s watch, the constabulary will go back to doing its job of policing instead of running errands for officers.
One aspect not articulated in court or in the article cited above is the loss of dignity for the policemen involved in domestic/menial jobs vis-à-vis their wives, children as well as their extended families and friends.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below. Welcome to reason!