Cops in Gurugram take the English route to crack cases
If you happen to walk into the office of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Gurugram Police, don’t be surprised to find constables greeting you in chaste English. The department has hired a coach to help the cops with the language. EOW officer in-charge inspector Vijay Kumar said, “The officers are not well-versed in English and the nature of economic crimes involves dealing with developers, and foreign nationals, who may not speak the local language.”
English and vernacular language newspapers are piled up high on a table next to MHC Kiran, as he makes copious notes in a black diary, on occasion, referring to a dictionary app. MHC Kiran is completing what he refers to as his ‘homework’. “A test/assignment is due at the end of the month,” he says haltingly in English.
The lunch hour is the de facto “homework time” for officers at the EOW.
They have to read English newspapers. A woman constable from the department has been deputed to ensure that officers devote at least a few minutes of the hour to this exercise. A fine of rupee 1 is charged for every non-english word spoken and investigators have been directed to maintain their case diaries in English.
The almost school-like diktat for use of English at work was passed in June, when the department hired a tutor to help investigating officers, who lamented that their knowledge of the Queen’s language, or the lack of it, was proving to be an impediment in probing cases.
EOW in-charge Inspector Vijay Kumar said that after he took over in March, he learnt that the case action reports of at least 80 complaints that were filed in English were pending. “The officers are not wellversed in English and the nature of economic crimes involves dealing with developers, corporate executives and foreign nationals, who may not speak the local language. Investigators protested that the first information reports (FIRS) of economic offences, often submitted in English and sometimes running into 20 pages, were cumbersome to understand. The cases are protracted and the financial jargon in an alien language was difficult to comprehend for the officers,” he said.
Soon, the department wrote to senior officers, requesting their permission to hire an English tutor for three months, who would help the investigators get a basic command over the language.
The EOW deals with economic crimes related to cheating, forgery and fraud, where the amount of alleged fraud typically exceeds Rs 25 lakh.
Getting creative with constraints
Between the last week of June and September, city-based communication coach Vipin Yadav, 36, conducted 30 sessions, of about two hours each, with the officers to cover the basics of English, including vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure. But the officers’ hesitation towards the exercises forced him to get creative.
“Certain officers were not receptive to the classes initially and felt “coerced”, but became more involved when we started conducting mock investigation sessions. The officers were assigned specific roles—a builder (complainant), investigating officer, bank staffer, judge—for the mock complaint. The entire conversation of working on the case during the mock session was done in English. These sessions were crucial for officers to overcome the hesitation to speak in English,” Yadav said, adding that they even used small clips from English movies to explain the nuances of the language.
Talking about Yadav’s teaching tools assistant sub-inspector Rajvir Singh said they also have a Whatsapp group called ‘English training’, where they share their English language-related queries and Yadav addresses them.
“As part of our homework, we made videos of ourselves speaking in English on a particular topic and posted them on the group. We have all downloaded applications on our phones for help with translations and understanding meanings of word,” ASI Singh said.
The sessions are now limited to a two-hour class once a month for revising grammar and the ‘English training’ group has become a support group of sorts where not just Yadav, but officers also help each other “keep it clean”.
“One of the officers had bought land in his ancestral village and the colleagues were congratulating him on the Whatsapp group. An officer wrote ‘I congratulations you on purchase land’. He was corrected by another officer,” a police officer with the EOW, who prefers anonymity, said.
Other than the group, the staff of 22 has earnestly taken to learning the English language. Head constable Naveen, a graduate in computer applications (BCA) from Rewari, is proud of his daily self-assigned homework. “I make it a point to learn two English words every day and try to use them in sentences while conversing,” he said beaming.
The fact that the sessions have helped is also reflected in the dwindling number of pending cases. Inspector Kumar said that as of November 1, the EOW had disposed of 45 cases and credited the English lessons for it.
“When I joined, 107 FIRS were being investigated. That number has come down to 62. Apart from that, the pending complaints have come down from 51 to 16. A lot of complaints, where action taken report was pending because of language constraints, were taken up and cleared,” Kumar said, adding that two officers of the rank of ASI have even started maintaining their case diaries and all written communication in English.
A police officer, requesting anonymity, said that though the lessons have helped officers probe cases, they still struggled to frame grammatically correct sentences while conversing and used Hindi fillers.
“In the three months when the sessions were conducted, we collected Rs 700 and Rs 1,000 in fine and the department went out for lunch with this money. We want this fine to become zero. Then, we will have a pot luck,” ASI Naveen Kumar said.