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‘After 25 years I get Rs 12,000 a month …

We make fun of them but the moment danger threatens we expect them to face it fearlessly. Never mind if they don’t have guns that work or bullet-proof jackets, reports Prasad Nichenametla.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2008 23:51 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

They are a city’s first line of defence — the beat constables armed with wooden lathis. They are also a lightning rod for public anger. We make fun of them but the moment danger threatens we expect them to face it fearlessly. Never mind if they don’t have guns that work or bullet-proof jackets.

On Friday, 15 days after 10 terrorists came in from the sea to ravage Mumbai, a small group stood guard at the Nariman Point sea-face. Leading them was Pradeep Jadhav, a head constable from the Colaba Police Station.

Ask him about his care-worn look and Jadhav lets fly: “After 25 years of service I get Rs 12,000 a month and, after the cuts, only half of that in hand. This is what we are … and you expect us to do everything from catching petty criminals to settling family disputes to preventing terrorists from attacking the city?

“The city has been facing terror strikes since 1993, but we still do not have paramilitary forces here. There are special forces exclusively trained for the purpose who should stand here and protect the city. If we do their work also then what is the difference between them and us.”

Jadhav says he and seven other constables from different police stations have been at the promenade since 8am. They expect to be there till 8pm, at least.

“We are on duty 12 hours every day and even more if the need arises. An official sitting in Mantralaya works for about 40 hours a week. Compensation should be based on the work not just number of days,” one of the constable said.

“The fire service personnel get risk allowance and even the electricians, it’s only us who are not given anything despite the fact that our job is full of risks.

“Please do not target us. We are a civil force that is not equipped to tackle terror attacks. What we can do is support anti-terror operations.”

These constables are worried that the next attack could be even bigger. “After 26/11, if an attack on a larger scale happens, how are we going to deal with it,” asks Ramdas Kale.

Ask them why they are not armed and they say they’ve stored their weapons in a van nearby. They say it is not possible to carry heavy guns, helmets and jackets all the time. Anyway, most of the time they only deal with the common public.

(Names of constables and PS locations changed to protect identity)