Mumbai Police constables, wiser after what they are describing as the “shootout at Vakola”, are doling out advice to one another. “Jasta tension aala tar sick madhe jaa (Go on sick leave if you are too stressed),” is a common refrain doing the rounds of the lower echelons of the police force. They are exchanging notes on WhatsApp. Their tone — “it’s a dog’s life we are leading, let’s not mess it up further”—sums up the mood.
On Saturday, an Assistant Police Inspector shot dead his senior and injured a colleague before turning his service revolver on himself, bringing to sharp focus the overworked, overstretched, overstressed, understaffed police force yet again.
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Assistant Sub Inspector Dilip Shirke had shot Senior Police Inspector Vilas Joshi and committed suicide. The police force, in particular the constabulary, have to put in harsh duty hours.
Saturday’s incident spawned animated discussions on the highly stressful life of Mumbai police constables. They have been talking about it and exchanging notes on Whatsapp as well.
A message doing the rounds advises constables to bear in mind that no work, or job is bigger than their lives.
“Do not put extra burden on yourself in your quest for prestige, post, increase in pay or favour with seniors. Always remember that nothing is more valuable than your life. Decide your own limits. This horrible competition will never end. You decide where you want to stop,” the message says.
It reminds constables that their parents, spouses and children need them, and suggests them to try out stress-busters like music, reading, or yoga.
“Firstly, do not put stress on yourself over inconsequential things. Secondly, in the end, everything is inconsequential. Policemen are killing themselves. Others are losing their mind. Yet others are getting arrested for extortion and rape. Two APIs get suspended for indulging in jurisdictional arguments. An ASI shoots a Sr PI and kills himself. And then there is the ever-present ACB (Anti Corruption Bureau). Take care, friends. If you are too stressed out, go on sick leave,” the message ends.
Another message gaining popularity is one that talks of how bandobast for the ongoing Indian Premier League matches is “making life hell” for constables. It talks of how constables are made to report at 3:00 pm in the scorching sun for the match that begins at 8:00 pm, and how, after spectators have left by 11:45 pm, constables are made to stay till 1:30 am for a roll call, review and briefing.
“By this time, local trains and buses stop running. Officers go home in their government vehicles. Constables spend the night on pavements or on railway stations, and go home by the first train the next morning, take a bath and report for duty at 8:00 am. It is sad this has escaped the attention of senior officers. Constables cannot speak out as they are part of a disciplined force,” the message reads.
ACP (South Region) Krishna Prakash said, “It is true that constables have to report for IPL bandobast at 3:00 pm, but that is only because there has to be a security sweep of the stadium three hours before people are allowed inside at 6:00 pm. As far as their going home is concerned, I will look into the matter and ensure they are able to go home in time from now on.”