In both the terrorist strike on an Army unit in Nagrota and the Nabha jail break, the attackers came wearing police uniforms. Despite the Ludhiana Police Commissioner, Jatinder Aulakh, asking shopkeepers to maintain a registry with ID proof of prospective buyers, its business as usual for most of the uniform traders. Kamaljeet Singh runs Jaspal Stitch Art in Ludhiana’s Dandi Swami region
1 How long have you been stitching police uniforms?
I inherited this business from my grandfather Jaspal Singh, who started stitching police uniforms 50 years ago. The shop is named after him. My father then ran the business, and now I supply the uniforms. We stitch uniforms of police employees of all ranks and have clientele from across the state.
2 The Nagrota and Nabha incidents show it is easy to procure police uniforms.
Yes, I agree. I sell khaki cloth for Rs 350 to Rs 1,500 a metre; 3 m of cloth is needed for stitching a uniform set. Apart from the cloth, I charge Rs 1,000 for stitching a constable’s uniform while the charge is Rs 1,500 for other officers. Hence, a uniform set from my shop, including necessary accessories such as stars, name tag etc, costs not less Rs 2,050. But there are many shops who sell readymade uniforms for less than Rs 1,000 in all. In the past two years, there have been three FIRs in Ludhiana alone against persons selling police uniforms without checking ID. Above all, police need to act strictly against such shops.
3 How easy is it to get readymade police uniforms or the khaki cloth required to stitch one?
There is no ban on purchasing khaki cloth from any shop. You can buy as much as you want. Khaki is the colour of the NCC dress; it is the colour of the uniform worn by security guards at Punjab Agricultural University; Class IV employees also wear khaki. These readymade uniforms too are available at a few stores for no more than Rs 550-650. You only need to look smart to buy a police uniform set. Maybe things will change a bit now due to Nagrota and Nabha, but such caution should be exercised at all times.
4 How do you ensure that the uniforms are not misused?
I never take an order without checking the ID proof of the customer, and retaining a photocopy of it. I also keep a record in my register of my customers, their belt numbers. We have always followed these regulations; we haven’t been told of any changes as of now.
5 Do incidents such as the jailbreak affect your credibility?
Yes, of course. We have been in this business for 50 years and we follow all the regulations, whether anyone comes to check our records or not. But such incidents put all of us in the trade under a cloud.