Police officials are among the first ones to respond to an emergency situation. That is why they have been classified as public safety personnel (PSP) like Medical officials and firemen (Oliphant, 2016). Nobody can gainsay the truth of active involvement of police in handling terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters and their daily exposure to tragic incidents like accidents, deaths, fire and explosions. Scholars agree that their exposure to these tragic events (in technical terms, ‘Potentially Psychologically Traumatic events’) puts them to different kinds of risks, much more than in other professions.
However, many of these officials face difficulties of this 24X7 job with fortitude. The following excerpts (preliminary findings) have been taken from an interview conducted by the author of this paper, as a part of a small scale study on the challenges faced by police officials, while working 24X7 in general and during Covid crisis in particular:
Duty is my nation, is always my first priority as a Police Officer. I agree as a member of my family, I have certain responsibilities towards my family. However I believe my nation is my family as well, bigger family indeed, and thus I have certain responsibility to my nation as well.
But call of duty is definitely above personal preference. Also, over a period of time, we adapt and acclimatise ourselves with the new job environment mentally and physically. Sundays and holidays hence don’t bother much.
As I joined the police force voluntarily, I knew from the very beginning that I shall get very little time to spend with the family. Moreover, the position right now has a lot of responsibility and public interaction. While on field, I don’t actually think about spending time with family.
These comments show that they are imbued with the spirit of nationalism and would always serve the nation come what may.
But see how we, the general public behave when we are stopped by them for showing our documents for verification or while they are implementing the orders of the government and are harsh to us for us being the violators:
The Jawan asked this person to wear mask. Instead of wearing it, he started telling him that he was not illiterate . “I know all the things, I am educated one”.
Some arrogant officials (one in thousand) whether of health department or our department, they think they are superior ones. The rules are only meant for the helpless, not for them.
I find it very tough to deal with some radical people, but being in belt force, we are assumed to deal with such situations.
When people come out without valid excuse and without taking safety measures, it creates a problem. At times, we need to be harsh to them to send them back.
They give stupid reasons and when we don’t allow them to cross the nakka, they get angry and start talking rudely. We have many such confrontations during our duty in a given day. We suffer mental trauma because of this.We stand at nakas for long hours.It is very tiring .So,there is both physical and mental pain.
Besides some people also roam outside and behave in very bad manner. Dealing with this kind of people and briefing them is very tiresome.
We tend to forget that they are there for our safety. We are making their job tougher by ourselves being a menace to them, apart from the daily dose of physical and mental fatigue experienced by them. Can we ignore the recent incident of Punjab, where an ASI’s hand was chopped off by those contravening the orders? So the public acting as ‘assailants’ and giving these pains to them as a keepsake acts as a dampener on their zeal to work.
We are dealing with public all the time, this increases our risks of getting infected manifolds.
One of the challenges which worries me the most is that I might be the carrier of the virus to my family. It would be very devastating for me for something to happen like this.
On an average I receive approximately 110 calls per day. Yes, more than double calls are being received during this crises.
But I don’t experience any health issues, as Iam working for a noble cause, that keeps me motivated.
Health issues like headache and lack of sleep are common.
Headache has become an everyday thing now.
The above response was with regard to the issue of their public contact. Liaisoning with the public all the time doesn’t let them maintain social distance. So apart from feeling jaded(as they don’t have a shift system for SHOs and above in executive police), they are threatened by the fear of infection. And if the respect and love they get (from the ones whose safety is their prime concern) is not commensurate with their efforts, it may discourage many future generations to join this force. It must be noted that constables or jawans are the worst hit due to the unruly behaviour of the public.
Many well qualified people seem to be devoid of sense of right and wrong and fail to understand that the one who is standing day and night for duty too has a family and a right to celebrate festivals, which he ignores, as performing duty is his passion and above any festival.
What feelings would come to your mind, when this covid warrior responds in the following way, when asked whether he considers himself as the real hero?
I do not believe in concept of a hero and I personally push myself to be a useful member of the department, productive in my daily chores, sound in my dealings and a good citizen.
Hero status may never come your way. Let you add to your stature and reveal your character when you remain willing to anonymously strive selflessly for the sake of those you’ll have never known. In doing your best, you are giving real people their best hope for a letter destiny, so resolve to do your best and press on. Believe in your role in society and work that way.
Let’s be responsible citizens. Next time, when you experience harshness by a police official, don’t forget to remind yourself of his sleepless nights and a breakless job.
(The author is Assistant Professor of Economics, DDE, University of Jammu)