An agitation by one lowly-paid copy has now snowballed into a full-blown revolution by police personnel across Gujarat protesting bad pay and meagre allowances.
On Monday evening, head Constable Hardik Pandya finished his duty and then parked himself on the stairs of Vidhansabha, a prohibited area, prompting authorities to detain him. After the news spread like wildfire, several of his colleagues and fellow cops from the force came out in his support. Scores of police personnel and their family members gathered at Satyagrah Chaavni in Gandhinagar in large numbers on Tuesday. The protests are now gaining state-wide momentum.
Many even supported Pandya digitally by changing their Whatsapp statuses and display pictures with one saying: “I SUPPORT HARDIK PANDYA”. As Pandya was detained and taken to Gandhinagar LCB, his friends and well-wishers took to the streets and demanded that he be relieved from duty but without any action being taken against him.
Pandya, who was posted as head constable at Bapunagar police station, was protesting the age-old unreasonable grade-pay of the police department.
Unfixed working hours, lower grade pay and other issues of the police department are in the limelight due to the statewide protests. The government will have to take concrete steps in accordance with the same to ensure that there is no public chaos and further agitation. Other states have a grade pay of Rs 4,200 and the salary scales from Rs 9,300 to 34,800. Whereas in Gujarat, the grade pay remains as low as Rs 1,800 and the salary scales from Rs 5,200 to 20,200.
The wives and children of policemen were also seen raising slogans in support of their families.
A policeman, on the condition of not revealing his identity, spoke about the challenges faced by the department. “For the first five years of duty, our pay remains Rs 19,750 but then decreases to Rs 18,000 whereas other government employees get it raised till Rs 24,000. Our cycle allowance is mere Rs 20 per month and we have to spend around Rs 200 daily to reach our allotted spots. If you count hourly, we get paid less than sweepers, who have an 8-hour shift. IPS officers make us cook food and wash utensils. Other state police personnel are paid way higher than us, so why this injustice to us?”
“Last night I was off work so I was protesting for our rights. As I stepped in at work this morning, I was handed a 6-month suspension order. The reason stated was that I was absent from my duty six months ago. Usually, if this happens, a policeman is fined or sent a notice. The suspension is not a liable consequence,” said Lebabhai Rabari, a cop.
Yusuf Dilawar Pathan, a retired policeman who is one of the leaders of the agitation, maintains, “I want to state that this fight has to be collectively fought by the whole police family. A suspension in accordance with the protests last night in Dehgam was done by the DSP. To protest these kinds of actions by the officials, women from police families in all the districts of Gujarat are protesting. I appeal to the police fraternity that they collectively organise protests in their respective villages and districts. The government has to listen to our problems and raise our grade-pays, inevitably.”
Manabhai Raygar, who has served the police department for 38 years, states his helplessness. “Government considers us like class 3 personnel but we are paid Rs 300 less than our supposed basic pay. Instead of Rs 3,050, we are paid Rs 2,750. The basic pay needs to be revised first and then the application of 5th, 6th and 7th pay commissions have to be implied. then and then we would be getting substantial and just remuneration amounts. I have filed 4 RTIs, which have an inclusion of 33 points regarding pay scales of Gujarat police. I had asked for information from the state government which was denied and then I had to go to the commission requesting information and respective actions on the same lines. I was ignored there too. Finally, I wrote to Central Government official CIC Sudhir Bhargav regarding my concerns but that application too remains pending and dusted.”