Patna police rampage: Problem is far more complex than meets the eye

The Bihar state govt’s recruitment policy has sparked off a gender war. While women police complain about lack of facilities for them, some police officials say female cops don’t abide by the rules

PTI photo
PTI photo

Soroor Ahmed

Unlike in Uttar Pradesh last month, it was mostly the female police personnel who went on rampage in Bihar’s capital Patna on November 2––in fact it was second such instance within two days.

They almost tried to lynch deputy superintendent of police Mohammad Muslehuddin and manhandled SP City and SP Rural.

The revolt started after one of the trainee constable, Savita Pathak, 22, died after illness in New Police Line of Patna.

The Senior SP, Manu Maharaj, too had to bear the brunt as he was not allowed to enter the scene by the policewomen, as well as some of their male colleagues.

Later on November 3 the police top brass lodged an FIR against 150 named accused, including 70 female trainee constables, who were recruited in August last. The new recruits not only destroyed property of the Police Line but also targeted common people. At one point the scene turned so ugly that the security guard of a police officer had to fire several rounds in the air.

Maslehuddin was rushed to the hospital in a serious condition.

Till recently the percentage of female police force was too small and they could be deployed in soft duties. But now that they form almost half of the force it is very difficult to cope up with the situation, say police officials

While the policewomen alleged that Savita died because she was denied leave the SSP and other officials said she was granted leave.

According to reports Savita, who was not keeping up well, had serious stomach pain on October 31 and was admitted to a private hospital. As there was no improvement in her condition she was referred to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), a premier hospital of Patna, but she could not be admitted because of non-availability of bed. This was the version of family members of Savita.

After the denial of bed in IGIMS, Savita was brought back to the New Police Line, and her condition deteriorated and died early on November 2.

This was the second such case of revolt within two days. On October 31 Shambhu Sharan Rathod, a subedar in the Bihar Military Police (BMP), was suspended and an FIR was lodged against him when a trainee woman constable alleged he had molested her in his office.

Several hundreds of women trainee constables gathered in front of the office of the commandant of the BMP’s 5th battalion, Ranjeet Kumar Mishra, demanding lodging of a criminal case against Shambhu. Some reports said that Shambhu too was beaten.

The repeated occurrence of revolt is no doubt alarming and the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has taken it seriously. But top serving and retired police officials––as well as many in the lower-rung––directly blame him for the chaos in the police. They allege that his government’s policy has led to the big increase in the number of crime and in spite of the best efforts by police it is not showing any sign of coming down.

Besides, the state government’s recruitment policy sparked off a gender war in the barracks. While the women police personnel complain that there are no facilities for them in Police Lines or police stations and are denied leaves, senior police officials––this includes a former DGP––are of the view that the female cops do not abide by the rules and do not come for training.

Police officials concede that the female force might not be getting due facilities, yet they claim that the policewomen are given more concession in terms of leave and sometimes even working hours. A top police official said that indiscipline should be dealt with severely, whether the violator is a male or female.

The problem started after the state government in 2016 decided to reserve 35% seats for women in the jobs.

So when the constable recruitment drive was undertaken earlier this year thousands of women too applied.

Though police sources confirmed that the number of those who got jobs is definitely much higher than 35% ––may be 40 or even more––several male aspirants took to the streets of Patna protesting against what they alleged faulty criteria laid down for the selection of girls. They said that while they had to undergo strict physical test before the recruitment there was no such requirements for their female counterparts.

Some of them even alleged that as high as two-thirds of the constables who got appointed were women. However, the state government rejected all such charges.

Senior police officials argue that since the nature of job in the police is different from say teaching, nursing, hospital duty, etc police had to tackle hardened criminals, Maoists, mafia gangs, bootleggers, kidnappers, etc. Women police force is not fit for such tough duties.

This, according to the police officials, is happening in the state where the police had to perform more than their normal duties and that too when there is so much under staffing. It needs to be mentioned that the number of police force deployed for VIP security in Bihar is highest in the country.

Till a couple of years back police were not supposed to impose total prohibition in the state. Now they have to, though they have no wherewithal to totally check it.

A junior police official, while talking to this correspondent, complained that the women personnel have become a ‘bojh’ (burden) on the state police.

A magistrate who was deployed on duty during the last year’s week-long celebration which marked the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singh had another story to narrate.

“I was given some male and female police personnel for night duties in Patna Saheb. As it was chilly winter nights (of Dec 2016 and Jan 2017) the male police personnel would ask their female colleagues to go by mid-night. To be honest to them they would even ask me to go on the plea that they would do the patrol duty,” the magistrate said.

Thus there are many instances of mutual cooperation too in the police force. So when the female trainees revolted on November 2, many male colleagues too backed them.

Till recently the percentage of female police force was too small and they could be deployed in soft duties. But now that they form almost half of the force, it is very difficult to cope up with the situation, say police officials.

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