The tragic attempt to suicide incidents of two RPF officials within a span of two weeks in the Mumbai metropolitan region, highlight the need for revamp of the working conditions of Railway Police Force (RPF). The railway police have to grapple with issues like shortage of manpower. Often police constables have to work extra hours and even have to report to duties during festivals, emergency situations like bandh. Many of them have to commute long distance for reporting to duty and complain of tiredness. Due to erratic work schedule, police constables are unable to spend quality time with their families. Cops don’t get adequate sleep and therefore, they become depressed and lose their concentration while discharging their duties. Hierarchy is another factor which is affecting the morale of police officials as they are harassed by senior officials.
The government is least bothered about resolving the issues faced by police officials. Even the Railways have turned a blind eye towards addressing cops grievances. To make matters worse police force doesn’t have a union to address their problems. The state government had planned to enforce eight hour shift for police officials but it is yet to be implemented. Former Mumbai Police Commissioners Satyapal Singh and D Shivanandan had conducted yoga classes and anti-stress workshops respectively to ease the stress of police force.
Gopal Shetty, BJP MP said that people’s expectations are growing more than their needs, which is becoming a major concern. He said, “A person is unaware about the purpose behind why he is earning money. He himself is not enjoying it but tries to earn more. I don’t think that senior officials are trying to harass their subordinates. They might be trying to enforce some discipline among juniors but if they are committing suicide then it is unjustified.”
“It is true that police officials have to work for 12 to 14 hours. Today, it has become very difficult for cops to buy a flat in Mumbai and government is yet of fulfil their demands of housing. The government must take steps to address the housing needs of police officials. For reducing stress among cops the police department must have a tie up with spiritual organisations,” he added.
51-year-old Railway Protection Force Police Sub Inspector Ramesh Meshram attached to RPF Mumbai attempted suicide by jumping in front of local train at Kurla railway station on Monday afternoon. An RPF official informed that Suresh Atre, senior inspector, Kurla, was harassing him in the Matunga workshop theft case. An on-duty staff saw him lying injured on the tracks and rushed him to a nearby hospital where he is undergoing treatment in the Intensive Care Unit.
Dr Harish Shetty, Psychiatrist said, that suicide is prominent in all professions and it is also happening in the army and cops; youth, adults too are ending their lives. He said, “Suicide is a secular phenomenon and there is no age, caste or creed bar. Cops are working for long hours and are unable to spend quality time with their families. Every city should have a Mental Health Commissioner to identify high risk people and provide them access to healthcare facilities. There are 150 million mentally ill people in India who need medical treatment. Cops should be offered training to identify their counterparts suffering from mental illness.”
Assistant sub inspector Mahesh Gosavi attached to Palghar police allegedly attempted suicide by consuming an overdose of sleeping pills at his Vasai residence on January 11. He cited harassment by seniors as the main reason behind taking such an extreme step.
Krishna Hegde, Vice president, BJP Mumbai said, “The government should implement police reforms like improving working conditions, housing needs, salary structure, basic welfare schemes for RPF officials. Yoga and meditation camps must be held for reducing stress among cops. If accommodation facilities are provided to police officials near to the railway station where they report then it will ease their commuting woes. Since 60,000 personnel are guarding the entire city it becomes difficult for them to discharge their duties amicably due to manpower shortage.”