Home India News Constable’s death exposes feudal tradition in police force

Constable’s death exposes feudal tradition in police force

By Mohammed Shafeeq, IANS,

Hyderabad : Many years after the colonial “orderly” system was abolished in the Andhra Pradesh police department, hundreds of constables and home guards are reduced to working as servants in the homes of senior officers. They are recruited to serve society but end up serving their higher-ups as domestic helps, cooks, drivers or gardeners.

They often suffer abuse and are even sent outside the state to serve the families of police officials.

The death of 40-year-old P. Muralinath, a constable of the State Armed Reserve who was working for no less than Additional Director General of Police Vivek Dube who heads the state’s anti-terror force Octopus, under suspicious circumstances near Gwalior last week, has brought such feudal traditions that date back probably to colonial times into sharp focus.

Muralinath’s wife Kaleswari alias Kavita claimed her husband spoke to her over phone on July 28, complaining of physical and mental harassment at Dube’s house.

“My husband was asked to clean toilets. He told me that he was denied food and water and was made to drink his own urine. It was not a natural death. He was murdered,” she said in her petition before the state human rights commission.

Muralinath, who had been working at Dube’s Noida residence, was found dead near Gwalior July 30. He was buried there the next day as an unclaimed body but his family living here was informed after his mobile phone without the SIM card was recovered in Jaithpur village.

The rights panel has sought a report from the government, which has already ordered a probe by a three-member committee.

However, from Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to Home Minister P. Sabita Indra Reddy, no one has an answer as to why and how constables and home guards are being used as orderlies despite the system having been abolished in 2003.

“How can a constable working here be sent to work in Delhi? If IAS (administrative) officers have no such facility, why should IPS (police) officers have it?” Rajasekhara Reddy asked officials at a meeting.

A clause in the AP Police Manual enables IPS officers to have constables and head constables to assist them in the discharge of their duties. But it is misused.

“Life is hell for us. They treat us worse than their servants. We are asked to wash clothes, cook food, go to the market to buy ration and vegetables, drop children to school, take their family members for outings and attend other domestic chores. The officers and their family members also abuse us,” said a home guard working as an orderly at a police officer’s house here.

Former director general of police P. Ramulu said, “This system is not just illegal but also immoral. It should be put to an end immediately.”

The state has a nearly 100,000-strong police force and 800 are top rank officers, including over 200 IPS officers. The officers from directors general of police to deputy superintendents are allowed to have two to six constables to assist them. About 3,000 such assistants are officially working for the officers.

However, sources in the Andhra Pradesh Police Constables Association claim that hundreds of others are unofficially working as orderlies. Dube reportedly has as many as five constables working for his family members in Noida.

Constables and home guards are suffering silently for fear of losing jobs or not getting promotion on time.

“There are many who suffer silently with the hope that a promotion or transfer will some day liberate them,” a constable, who did not want to be named, told this IANS correspondent.

The “orderly” system was first introduced during British rule in 1861. Since there were no communication facilities available at that time, the idea was to ensure that the services of policemen were available for the officer to act quickly in case of any law and order problem.

It continued after independence and was not abolished by many states despite recommendations by successive police commissions and a suggestion by the Supreme Court.

“When police officers go beyond the limits of law while performing their duties, they can’t be expected to be nice and humane while dealing with their subordinates. It is a culture of abuse,” said eminent rights activist G. Haragopal.

Lawyers say the victims can approach court to claim damages.

“If the services of a public servant were used for any purpose other than what he was recruited for, he can file a writ petition and claim compensation from the government,” said Shakeel Ahmed, a lawyer.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at [email protected])