In a unique form of protest, police stations all over Himachal Pradesh are resorting to a sort of ‘Gandhigiri’ or civil boycott.
A reflection of this may not be making any big headlines, but police “Roznamcha” –an official daily dairy report at any police station in Himachal Pradesh could provide evidence of a simmering yet quiet protest.
Over 5,700 police constables belonging to four recruitment batches – 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 have given up their food at the police mess. They have resorted to this move to build pressure on the government to end “discrimination” met with them.
To register their protest, the young constables –both men and women, are making daily entries in the “Roznamchas” about not eating at the mess.
Besides, they are also registering their grievances on social media platforms.
The police constables protest started in Shimla after the state government in November decided to cut down the contractual period of all government employees from three years to two years for their absorption in the regular scales. However, the decision didn’t mention anything about the police constables, whose contractual period continues to be eight years.
Even the top police officers in the state, including DGP Sanjay Kundu admitted that it is a “big disparity” with the force’s constables.
A day after Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced to cut down the contractual period of the employees from three years to two years, hundreds of police constables headed for his residence and staged a silent protest.
This was the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh when the state capital and CM’s official residence saw such a movement of the force.
Top echelons of the government, police and state intelligence were also taken by surprise over the development.
Thakur reached out to the representatives of protesting police constables, who raised their grievance and sought a reduction of the contractual period.
Despite Thakur’s assurance nothing has been done, which has made police constables in the state resort to this unique protest of not eating from the official mess.
“We have stopped using the mess. We would rather eat outside. Next, we are thinking of returning our entire mess allowance as a mark of protest,” said a young woman constable.
Another woman constable rued, "We have families to look after. Our duties are harsh and tough. This is a well-known fact. If the employees of other departments get regularisations or higher wages within two years, why this eight-year bar on us?”
K D Shridhar, a counsel of the police constables in the High Court said, “High Court has dismissed their case on technical grounds. However, there are judgements of courts including Supreme Court which justifies their stand to raise a grievance about service conditions, even if they had accepted the terms and conditions in the advertisement at the time of their recruitment”.
"The duties of policemen are different from other employees and they work 24x7, many a times under adverse working conditions. The demand for reducing the period from eight years to two years for the constables recruited after January 2015 is justified," said a senior police officer .
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has asked DGP Sanjay Kundu to ensure that police constable end their mess boycott and stop social media tirade against his government.
“This is sending a very wrong message to other services and people in general about the government,” Thakur has told Kundu.