The depressed Mumbai constables

The other day I went ‘somewhere’ in Mumbai and got there early. So sat down with the really nice young constables outside and shared a cup of tea with them. How different they were to the constables either made fun of in our films, or derided as corrupt individuals. It was startling for me to discover that all of them spoke primarily about job related stress, suicides amongst young cops, and the inability to make two ends meet.
“you have no idea how much pressure we have from above, and can never be sure when and how we may be implicated in some political game to protect someone senior or a political big wig’. And this could happen in any of the jobs we are called to do, so constantly have to watch our backs’.
This was a startling statement – and it came passionately from every one of them ….


more ..
‘Sir, have you tried to live with your wife and children, and parents if you can bring them here on Rs 300o a month ?. There is no way we can make two ends meet.’ said a young 25 year old.
“So rs 3000 is your base income ?”
“No sir, I make Rs 8000 a month”
” So those are perks, ?”
” No sir, the extras are hafta’s” He spoke with clear and honest eyes.
“from whom ?”
“The people who sell there wares on the streets. We allow them to do their illegal trade. so they pay us”
I looked surprised at the honesty with which that was said.
” I hate doing it sir, I know that man too has a wife and children like mine, and he has to feed them too. But I understand too ,that life has not given either one of us the choice. We both have to do what we do to survive. The choice has been given only to our senior officers and their political connections that completely exploit both the poor hawker and us”.
I now talk to many constables. I get similar answers. And it is true – how does one survive in Mumbai and support a family at rs 3000 a month ?
“but surely you are better off because you get free quarters to live and food etc ?”
“but we have to pay rent, sir”
And then more constables and a slightly senior person joined in – and they said exactly the same thing. Depression was a word that came again and again.
And then we had a long discussion on films. The young constable knew all about my Oscars and the ‘Elizabeth film’ though he had not seen it – and all of them said how proud they were that an Indian had gone to the Oscars.
Yesterday I was catching a flight back to Mumbai. I asked the security officer that was frisking me.
“Kya hal hai ?” How are you ?”
” Bus poochiya mat saab, ro rahe hain” Please dont ask – we are crying.
” Kyon ?” why ?
“bus bahut depression raheti hai is naukri mein” Its depressing doing this job.
So I decided to write this blog. Depression can be a serious condition – and we expect these constables to protect us. And often put themselves at physical risk to do so. At rs 3000 a month.
shekhar

31 Responses to “The depressed Mumbai constables”

  1. Anindita Sen says:

    Depression has the power to make or break a person. Clinically it also creats havoc to hormonal levels needed in the body to function as a stable person. There are many causes in life to push any individual into such depression but monetary ones affect very easily .
    In India, public services are not paid well… its only recently after so many years of struggle that the Govt has had a revision of scales in PSUs. Again , my personal opinion would be to land the blame on polititians. It suits them to starve the police so that they can make them act as per their needs by offering them bribe . Its a double sided sword here .
    Our country has a lot of “growing up” to do politically first and then if we are matured as a nation , we will come across people from different wakes of life in India leading a healthier and happier life.

  2. rakhi says:

    I too feel that all the talk about our police force being corrupt and inefficient is something that needs to be looked at carefully.Let alone the inadequate salary,the stress can be killing .It’s a vicious circle which stems from financial crunch and ends in lack of pride for the uniform.

  3. Himanshu says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    I often think about the condition of the police, and I feel it is one of the key differentiators between India and America. There they are paid relatively quite well and can retire with a pension of half pay per month (of what they earned last) for life after completing 20yrs.
    Law and Order is the first requirement for the growth and stability of the country and I won’t mind even increasing the tax rate by a percentage point just to fund the salaries of the police. Look at the Army in India, they are paid well, have great homes to live in, with tons of facilities and you can hardly ever bribe an army man who is totally proud of the uniform he wears.
    I would like to see police salaries comparable to what an average professional is getting after graduation (in the 15 to 20 thousand per month range) at the lowermost level. Also there need to better training and recruiting procedures. This will help us attract better talent and higher salaries will attract more people so the police force would not be short of resources for a country so vast.
    I have never seen a big allocation for the police in any national budget and I sincerely think fixing the police would fix hundreds of problems in India.
    Best Regards,
    Himanshu

  4. Koizen says:

    ‘Kya hal hei’
    ‘poochiye mat…wohi haddi-wohi khaal hei’
    One week back, late in night I was driving my mobike as weather was good and forgot my helmet, at night I was stopped by constable who told me where is my helmet and I told him I forgot and wanted to feel the air…strangly he did not ask for bribe…he understood…
    We were at tank bund, a man made lake at Hyderabad overlooking Buddha statutte…strangly the same discussion came what you have typed. He was telling about depression, how he cant get sleep without alcohol and even to extent that colour Khakhi is depressing…I suggested why not Blue…
    This cop actually was a learned man…he says that the solution of problem is to raise the salary of constables and lower limit cops…and I think its true…if they are given respectable salary, they would not be tempted to take bribes, and will respect their uniforms.

  5. Sree says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Really a moving thought….How can anybody survive in Mumbai with Rs 3000/month income?
    I live in a society where even the less fortunate people can earn as much as a engineer can or a doctor can for that matter. It is just that Engineers and Doctors pay 65% Income Tax, where as so called less fortunate pay 30-40% in Taxes. Social and Health security are taken care by the Government. But the real question is in India are we human enough to pay high taxes just for the sake of better society??
    When we prepare to do that, India would be a much better place ….
    Sree
    Copenhagen

  6. rohit says:

    Whoa!
    I dont doubt anything that you have written above shekhar.
    We expect these guys to protect us, throw their bodies before anything happens to us, but can we not take a protest to the government about the disgraceful salary that they are drawing?? I am a corporate executive earning ‘slightly more’ than the salary level you have mentioned and even I find it difficult to survive in Mumbai…
    Just cant imagine how these families are surviving in Mumbai…actually Surviving is the right word…they can never LIVE…its a pity…I wish we could do something for it…I wish the film fraternity does its bit in paying off the ‘overdues’ it has towards security forces…
    Honestly (and by no means I say that bribery should be encouraged), I disliked the site of constables earlier…but now whenever I pass them I make it a point to either wave a hi! to them or just smile…and I dont dislike them anymore..(thanks to some real good articles/posts i have been reading on them off late)
    Shekhar keep writing….
    (Now I must get back to work…!) Hope we could do something constructive for them because of whom we can roam in Mumbai…ANYTIME of the day!!
    Regards
    Rohit

  7. rohit says:

    Whoa!
    I dont doubt anything that you have written above shekhar.
    We expect these guys to protect us, throw their bodies before anything happens to us, but can we not take a protest to the government about the disgraceful salary that they are drawing?? I am a corporate executive earning ‘slightly more’ than the salary level you have mentioned and even I find it difficult to survive in Mumbai…
    Just cant imagine how these families are surviving in Mumbai…actually Surviving is the right word…they can never LIVE…its a pity…I wish we could do something for it…I wish the film fraternity does its bit in paying off the ‘overdues’ it has towards security forces…
    Honestly (and by no means I say that bribery should be encouraged), I disliked the site of constables earlier…but now whenever I pass them I make it a point to either wave a hi! to them or just smile…and I dont dislike them anymore..(thanks to some real good articles/posts i have been reading on them off late)
    Shekhar keep writing….
    (Now I must get back to work…!) Hope we could do something constructive for them because of whom we can roam in Mumbai…ANYTIME of the day!!
    Regards
    Rohit

  8. :) says:

    hi shekhar !
    …hal aisa hai ki ab kya bataein……..! we all have our own stories to tell !
    talking of the police in mumbai……….baap re ! God forbid we need them for ANYTHING ! the very same ‘poor fellows’ have swooped upon me for breaking a signal when i know i have’nt (simply to avoid a headache of a confrontation with them)………and then chewed up my brains …….until i opened my purse !
    i have seen them callously break fruit and vegetable vendors shops…..raze them to the ground…….after taking regular haftas from them ! a mango vendor had to pay 1000 bucks straight away for his mangoes tumbling a bit beyond his space ! can you imagine how long it would take the poor fellow to earn that money again ?
    agreed that one can never generalise and there are always good and bad in any force of that magnitude……but…….lately the rapists have been the police, hand in glove with underworld encounters……? POLICE !
    anyways…….the depression factor could be abs real for all of them because at the end of the day……what is 8000 bucks or even 10000 bucks today ? they have families to feed and what do you get for that much today ? when i see the contrasts they have to tolerate on a daily basis between what they have and what they observe the affluent class consume……..i feel a genuine fear …….knowing that the day is not far when their decency and patience will not hold out. i watch my maid struggle with the same and hold onto her dignity inspite of it ( she tells me they are 6 people living in a small kholi where their feet do not fit if they need to shut the door at night !). they too have a thirst for knowledge…..the good life…….a chhutkara from the drudgery of their excruciating existence ! depression…….? i think they need an award for going on !

  9. ruchi says:

    depression has become world wide phenominen and no body spared from it rich or poor. i agree 100% that 3000/- is not a salary to live but look at there seniors who must be earning twice or 10 times their salary aren’t they currupt. so where it starts and where it ends and what are the reasons or causes for it is a tricky question.

  10. ruchi says:

    depression has become world wide phenominen and no body spared from it rich or poor. i agree 100% that 3000/- is not a salary to live but look at their seniors who must be earning twice or 10 times their salary aren’t they currupt. so where it starts and where it ends and what are the reasons or causes for it is a tricky question.

  11. atul says:

    i am a complete supporter of indian policemen – the front end. they are most denigrated, despised, underpaid and over worked of any profession I know in India – probably the world. There is a desparate need to triple their salary – and give them respect and also define their working conditions. i lived for a brief while in Illinois and i was surprised at the over time and other perks the us police get as a part of their job. Indians crib about policemen conduct but not about their conditions.

  12. Deepa Ramani says:

    Sensitive jobs like this involving security, have got to involve better pay. That seems a well understood concept, and it seems to increase the chances these people will not resort to corruption to make ends meet. Do they have opportunities to improve themselves – such as access to evening/part-time education? That might reduce depression – some sort of hope. It seems that the divide between the rich and poor has been occupying your mind. I hope to see some great cinema come out of it. However, ultimately, I sort of feel hopeless about anything changing without a huge emphasis on primary education and nutrition, in India (and around the world).
    Here’s something incredibly inspiring to watch – a 12 year old giving a mind-blowing speech at the U.N. A different subject, somewhat – but essentially the root is probably the same.
    –Deepa (Austin, TX)

  13. Aditi says:

    posting a comment, is that the only way to touch base? i want to share a piece of writing with you, that I think you may enjoy.
    I loved ‘apnapan’ by the way.

  14. Shashank Trivedi says:

    Shekhar,
    I met one Assistant Sub Inspector last week.In his small 10×10 room, he was happy with his Rs.3000 take away.He consider to be best non-corrupt guy in city(Ahmedabad).I interview him as a journalist and he murmur very inspiring line to describe his honst life:
    “I must make the my world honest before I can honestly say to my children that honesty is the best policy”

  15. DQ says:

    Its a shame to see not only constables but so many other professionals in this condition in India…
    We are doing well in globalisation and economy are we not?? Lets stick to that ha!ha! and feel sorry for these folks end of the day what else can we do?
    Im sick of screaming that all these folks should stand up…close India down and ask for their rightsssssssssss!!!
    Why sobbbbbbbbb
    ftom watchmen to police to labourers to factory staff etc etc…all should make a certain pay scale which is human…
    why can’t they be paid well why???????
    Why cant people stand up unitedly and make rights work for them why?????????
    Why can’t all these steps be taken up one at a time why???????
    NO ONE WILL STAND FOR THEM THEY UNITEDLY HAVE TO STAND EVEN IF IT MEANS OTHERS HAVE TO PAY THROUGH THEIR NOSE TO GIVE THEM THEIR RIGHTS>>>>>>
    THE TRAINS IN EUROPE STOPPED FOR A PERIOD OF TIME!!!
    THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY FOR EACH ACHIEVEMENT ONE CANNOT CRY AND IF THEY DO>>>>
    THE WEB IS NEVER ENDING!!!!
    eew
    I need vicks???
    VICKSSSSSS
    cough!! cough!!
    Hiya Shekhar….
    Hi and bye…
    mew mew

  16. Firelight says:

    Hallo
    You’ve spoken to them and found out about their depressing state.
    It is not in the least surprising that they are depressed with the kind of job they do and the conscience killing that is involved but what makes me think twice is- what about all that footage the media shows every day on the TV where these same constables are beating up people for petty crimes.
    Is there a possibility that those two are inter-connected? Depression + Anger = Violence.

  17. tT says:

    That’s a very sad fact that unfortunately not only happens in Mumbai but in many other places… In my own country (Portugal) those stories are not known to most people but I also had the chance to talk to some guys inside that world and how they struggle to live with minimal salaries as well as support their families. Besides, at least here, the government offers little to NO protection/support rights for them.
    I find this situation quite revolting actually… Unfortunately our voices sometimes aren’t heard by those who can really change this matters. Sometimes I wish i could have a bigger role in this stuff but it’s incresingly more complicated to change all that’s wrong in this world. Depression IS indeed a serious condition, but we can’t let it win over our lives! Life is way too important for that ! 🙂
    Great topic shekhar!

  18. tT says:

    That’s a very sad fact that unfortunately not only happens in Mumbai but in many other places… In my own country (Portugal) those stories are not known to most people but I also had the chance to talk to some guys inside that world and how they struggle to live with minimal salaries as well as support their families. Besides, at least here, the government offers little to NO protection/support rights for them.
    I find this situation quite revolting actually… Unfortunately our voices sometimes aren’t heard by those who can really change this matters. Sometimes I wish i could have a bigger role in this stuff but it’s incresingly more complicated to change all that’s wrong in this world. Depression IS indeed a serious condition, but we can’t let it win over our lives! Life is way too important for that ! 🙂
    Great topic shekhar!

  19. Amit Singh says:

    Thank You so much for writing this.
    Love you man.
    Amit Singh

  20. Gopi says:

    Great topic for a film

  21. Cinda says:

    Sending a prayer of peace, contentment and abundance in the lives of the police men and women and their families who are feeling depressed and without hope. May the ones who are in charge of paying and managing these officers have a shift in energy for the betterment of all involved…
    om shanti shanti shanti hari om

  22. Riya says:

    Hello Shekhar,
    A question – Would you rather be a director or an accountant assuming you are paid 3,000 rupees a month?
    Perhaps passion could replace depression. Work stress – who doesnt have it? Doesn’t a director get stressed pre-release/post-release?
    I am not trying to undermine the work or profession of the constable only looking at it from a different perspective – Why is it that people try to rationalize dishonesty or wrong instead of accepting that they succumb to the easy way out?
    Regards.

  23. :) says:

    hi shekhar !
    though the difference may not seem significant at all, but over the years there has been some improvement and awareness towards their plight……..
    today they have yoga and vipassana sessions organised for them……..excercise has been introduced for some among them …..who were pot bellied fatsos.their uniforms compared to what they used to be, are starched and newer……
    kiran bedi has also made a huge difference to both prisoners and policemen , with her more humane methods of dealing with people and her introduction to vipassana in prisons……
    so the difference is not HUGE……..but its atleast a step forward ?

  24. jazzy says:

    Shekhar,
    When I join a new job (depending on my whatever capabilities)… i know exactly how much i’m gonna get. So whether it is 50000 or a lakh or a 3000 per month… i know it… so does that mean that I should use my “job & salary” as an excuse to call someone names & collect money.
    Will you accept me making a movie telling you about my pitiful family conditions rather than my ability to communicate a story through a medium??? In the same way will you accept me saying that my conditions are worse and so I will loot in a legal way?
    Though you didnt support these constables anywhere in your post (atleast directly), I have to say that no one has forced them to get into that job.. no one’s asked them not to resign… but when they do it out of their choice let them not be in an assumption that they are doing anything for us. They are taking consequences of their own choices.
    And when you cant handle the consequences of your choices… there you go that’s a contradiction. Many a time contradictions and depression go hand in hand. Don’t they Shekhar?

  25. shekhar says:

    yes they do jazzy, but there is point where people do not have a choice. People take a job if they can get one – though I agree that a job in the government is considered secure for pension etc. However do you not agree that the people that protect us and are given the job to keep law and rder are being payed a ridiculous salary ? shekhar

  26. aftab says:

    Shekhar:
    A lot of people in our country are being paid a ridiculous salary. Recently in an interview to CNN-IBN, Mr. Shreedharan (DMRC) revealed that he gets about Rs.30000 pm salary as CMD of DMRC. Do you think that Rs.30000 pm does justice to his calibre?
    There was another news item that more than 350 army officers of rank Lt.Colonel and above have resigned in last six months after recommendations of sixth pay commission. What about them?
    And we all love train travel, don’t we? Every day lives of 13 million passengers depend upon the gruelling physical work of the gangman. Do you know how much he takes home? Well.. the same Rs.3000 pm.
    The fact is that we do not have any corelation between value contributed by an individual and his compensation. All of us are in this.

  27. brahmastra says:

    Despite all the optimistic marketing pushed by the Indian corporations, evertime I go to India, it seems like a mess that’s getting worse, especially for the lower middle class. Of course, the primary blame lies with the darned politicians who are so mentally primitive that even monkey leaders care more about their groups. There is an utter lack of far-sighted, selfless, benevolent leaders in the various streams of society, a situation which has reached record heights in the US.
    The Indian Government, especially of the Congress Party are lead by a bunch of illiterate, corrupt morons who, after the various foreign invaders, are the primary cause of the mess in India despite the availability of unmatched superior minds and a rich culture unparalleled in the world.
    My babble today is partly derived from this news i saw on NDTV which mentions that there will be 50% quota for Christians in St Steven’s in Delhi and some 10% for SC, which leaves 40% for general public.
    All this is linked, with the root being that the Indians are getting alienated from their spiritual roots while falling in the trap of godless materialism, self-indulgence and irrational secularism of vote-bank politics.
    Hopefully someday soon, the influential and educated part of India, which is largely passive currently watching boogie woogie, item numbers, drinking expensive alcohol, getting pseudo-intellectual and spending 2000 Rs to get into a nightclub while beggars gather outside, will be cornered, see the light and forced to get together to throw out these illiterate politicians and establish some sophisticated infrastructure, a part of which will be to bring the government officials into the upper middle class bracket.
    Personally, i think the first step is to kick the Congress and allies out, and get the BJP in. No matter which way you look at it, they are far less corrupted and are educated, sophisticated leaders for the most part.

  28. brahmastra says:

    @jazzy,
    It’s true that its their destiny, but while you live the life of a comfortable yuppy, it is not possible for you to understand the gruelling nature of the jobs of these policemen who toil under the sun taking crap from everyone. It is not an easy task for them to live the life of corruption every day. And i doubt they had much choice in their lives..can you put yourself in the place of a lower middle-class chawl-dwelling teenager and imagine the wide array of choices you have for your future in India?

  29. brahmastra says:

    @Ritu Chandra,
    As in my post to jazzy, it is easy for you to have zero tolerance for corruption sitting in your cozy air-conditioned room in the US, while the indian constables and havaldars are roaming the crazy streets trying to make ends meet for their families at 3000 Rs per month with an increasingly materialistic lifestyle affecting the society as a whole. We’ll have to see if you stick to the zero-tolerance while in those shoes.

  30. Ritu Chandra says:

    @ Brahmastra
    I will get to your points in detail when I have some more time, at this point let me just say, that in today’s India, nothing stops a person from being in a better position. Put in hard work and in the right direction and you should reap the benefits. A constable on the streets has the option to an education through govt. subsidized schools and then an equal opportunity to apply for higher education through reservations etc. He has the option of setting up his own shop if he wants. The options are unlimited. It is the attitude and drive that has to be in place.
    If I sit in an air-conditioned office here in the US today, it’s not because I had a rich moneybags father who got me here. I have got here through my own hard work. I have slogged from 10th standard onwards to get good grades so that I could qualify to get through a good professional college. You see so many people here in the US who came from modest backgrounds in India. But they came here worked at gas-stations, slogged it out and earned a good life-style for themselves. Your background does not stop you from a good life anymore
    At the end of the day we all have our share of struggles. They just mean different things at different levels. Just like to offset me you bring up the example of the constable, similarly to offset the constable I have the example of a street vendor. Whereever you are, there will always be someone in a position better than you.
    I see a strong socialist bend in your arguments. I shall come back to those later.

  31. brahmastra says:

    @ Ritu Chandra,
    Theoretically you may be correct about these low-ranking policemen having many paths, but if one has lived in India long enough, one would learn pretty quick that theory and practicality are not in sync as much as in the “first world” countries. It is quite a herculean task to go the straight route for many of these poor people, because influence and corruption dog all branches of the ladder.
    Can you imagine the reality of working at say, Bhivandi police station, as a havaldar/constable under a bunch of corrupt inspectors and overseeing a stream of illegal liquor outfits, sweat shops, dance bars, etc. run by powerul politicians and mafia dons, and be able to culminate the drive and attitude to go the straight route?
    The change you ask for in the personalities of these people can only come about from a deep rewrite of Indian society with a revisitation to the ancient vedic spiritual values and social structure. All these new offshoots like socialism, capitalism, communism, etc. are a bunch of half-baked crap that does not take into consideration the depth of universal design.
    Indians need to work on their self-esteem and realise that despite the dark veil of poverty and such, India is still the brightest hope the world has, provided it goes back to its roots.

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