Ailing Khaki of Mumbai

A brave Maharashtra police unfortunately also tops the list for police suicides. Nearly 168 personnel attached to various departments of the Mumbai police ended their lives from 2002 to 2012. Detailed data on police suicides in the city was procured by the RTI activist earlier. It is necessary to ensure that police personnel do not turn skeptical when “over-smart” officers continuously get good postings, whereas good ones get relegated. This leads to discrimination and ridicule in social circles; wives and children of successful officers often boast, which humiliates kin of those who traps in bad postings. This makes a sensitive officer vulnerable to suicide. The best way to ensure that postings and transfers are done in a transparent manner is with an unbiased committee. Posting must be based on sound principles of job rotation. Mumbai police is divided into privileged and underprivileged staff. The upper crust of Mumbai police is rich, famous, prosperous and living the extravaganza lavishing life, whereas the lower rank hawaldars to police inspector are living with many challenges. Devendra Fadanvis government has no home minister for the department, the portfolio is with him but he is unable to ensure the welfare of the department.

To ensure fitness, a workshop was also organized for the 45,000-strong Mumbai police force on May 10. This decision was taken by the Mumbai Police in the wake of a senior police inspector being shot dead by an Assistant Sub-Inspector at Vakola Police station. The objective of the workshop was to understand the mental and health issues that the police officers face on a daily basis. At the workshop, a questionnaire was to be filled up by all the police officers, following which they will be counseled and sensitized.

On the other hand, one cannot deny that the Police officers work in poor working conditions, where they have to deal with a huge number of issues. Firstly, their senior officers are abusive and treat their juniors in a shabby manner. Also, there are long working hours and leave is scarce, which leads to bigger problems. After a point, it becomes intolerable and that is when they lose their cool and take such extreme steps. ASI-level officers are usually more frustrated due to their advanced age. By the time their promotion comes, they are already above 50. For someone who has not been trained as an officer, to become one at such an advanced age becomes very stressful. Also, an ASI has to grapple with a huge amount of work, which is why they cannot exert as much as their younger counterparts.

There are several factors, which develop and grow over a period, contribute to the decision. The extreme step comes when a line is crossed and that person is unable to bear the stress. Long working hours, poor working conditions, VIP protection duty, festivals and lack of structural reforms had increased their stress levels. Long-term stress causes depression and suicide. Regular screening for mental health problems during a physical check-up is a must. Depression across age groups in the force is not easily identified and fixed early, which leads to the taking of drastic steps. This drastic step may come after easy availability of lethal weapons to them. Department has not carried out any structural reforms to tackle such issues. Proper screening of individual cops at the police station level should be carried out to fix the tendency of suicide at an early stage. In many cases, it is not only work stress but depression is also due to personal and family reasons. The tolerance level of personnel has also gone down. The department has come out with an initiative where gyms and yoga classes have been started at police stations. Personnel have been urged to spend time in the gym and at yoga classes to reduced stress levels. Excessive work pressure and failure to accomplish desired professional ambitions may act as a primary or major contributory reason for suicides. Such ambitions could be getting good postings and regular career advancement. Work pressure may be a cause, but the bigger one is humiliation by seniors in the form of day-to-day harassment or punitive transfers. There is ‘punishment posting’ for a good officer which is much humiliating to them. Such unbearable humiliation and consistent mental torture foster suicidal tendencies.

With blood pressure, sugar, diabetes, depression, obesity, skin disorders Mumbai police also suffering with heart issues and HIV at large. This is high time, government needs to tackle this issue with much more care and senility to build the health and morale of Mumbai police.