No Honour in Uniform

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Photo: Tehelka Archives
Photo: Tehelka Archives

Arun Chowdhary, a 26-year-old police constable with the Uttar Pradesh Police, committed suicide in Lucknow on 26 November 2014. Before he ended his life at the private residence of DIG Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, Chowdhary had informed his father that he was forced to do Begaar (nonprofessional) duties and was depressed.

Chowdhary was among the 25,000 Class IV non-uniformed employees of the Uttar Pradesh Police, recruited under 24 categories — to work as cooks, orderly, office peons, gardeners, etc — who have been fighting for dignity since 2009. Most Class IV recruits in the UP Police are attached as domestic helps at the residence of IPS officers in the state.

“It’s difficult to establish what Chowdhary was deployed for at the private residence of the DIG. The records of such duties are not available since they are attached with the SP, SSP and DIG. Often, they do their duty as per the whims and fancies of the IPS officers,’’ says Nutan Thakur, the convener of the National RTI Forum and an advocate. Nutan, wife of senior IPS officer Amitabh Thakur, adds, “Even retired IPS officers and officers of the state home department, including section officers, deputy secretaries and principal secretaries, are beneficiaries of the Begaar system at their residences.”

Class IV employees of the UP Police have been struggling for past six years for honour and dignity, but in vain. Since 2009, their attempt at forming an association — Police Department Class IV employees Association — has faced roadblocks. Their attempt at registering the association with the office of the Registrar of Firms and Societies is pending because the Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police has not issued a no-objection certificate to the office of the registrar.

In 2012, the employees filed a writ petition in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, petitioning against the UP government deputing Class IV employees at the residences of IAS and IPS officials. The petition requested the court to direct the state government to depute the class IV employees at the police stations, mess, police lines and battalion headquarters.

The practice of employing government servants for menial labour at the residences of senior bureaucrats is so rampant that constables and head constables are often posted at the residences of IPS officers and bureaucrats for chor pahra (sentry) duty, are forced to work as domestic servants. This even after the UP government issued detailed orders way back in 1958 that only non-uniform Class IV employees —personal orderly, peon — were to be posted with the senior police officers, and that too only for discharging their official duty.

As late as 1977, the National Police Commission, after a detailed study of orderly-peon system in different states, had recommended that Class IV employees should accompany IPS officers during their duty for performing works like cooking food and upkeep of uniform in the camp, etc. The commission also recommended that instead of police constables, Class IV employees be made available to the police officers.

The recommendation of the commission was accepted by the UP government and yet police constables are forced to perform various non-professional duties across the state.

Instead of implementing the law, the UP Police lodged criminal charges against the office bearers of the Police Department Class IV Employees Association. Chowdhary’s suicide is an indicator of the rampant misuse of the police force in the state.

Krishna Murari Pal, the president of the Police Department Class IV Employees Association, was arrested for insubordination, raising slogans and instigating Class IV employees in 2009 after he formed the association. Pal works as a cook at the headquarters of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), in the state capital. He was arrested and jailed for three days, before being released on bail.

“Class IV employees are forced to do all forms of menial labour like cleaning dishes, laundry, mopping floor, taking pets out for walks, etc, at the residences of IAS and IPS officers. These employees are required to work for 15-16 hours a day for seven days a week and 365 days in a year without a break. Very often, they are abused if they ask for rest or leave,’’ says Pal.

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