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 ….
‘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.