Karnataka: Issue of Shorter Shifts for Policemen

Recently, in Karnataka the police constabulary was up in arms. A mass leave call was issued by the Karnataka Police Mahasangha demanding an 8 hour shift along with a pay hike and mandatory weekly off. Though the Mahasangha is not officially recognized, the mass leave call has once again brought forth the issue of heavy workload handled by the police personnel throughout the country. The police personnel normally is said to have a grueling 12 hour shift across the country.

What is the status of workforce in Karnataka?

The Karnataka state police reportedly have a shortfall of 28%. It has 70,000 personnel against the sanctioned strength of 96,000. Around 5,000 are due to retire soon in this year. Shortage of man power and hectic workload has been blamed as the reasons for the mass leave call of the state police constabulary.

What is the status in the rest of the country?

No state in the country has system which offers an 8 hour shift to the police.

In Mumbai, the police force consisting of 12,000 officers and 38,000 constables invariably have 12 hour workdays. In addition, most of the police personnel especially the constables have a duty time which stretches to 15 hours or more during special deployments like Indian Premier League matches. Recently, the police have begun experimenting eight-hour shifts at one (Deonar police station) of the 94 police stations. The schedule has been altered for implementing three shifts at these police stations. Recently, the experiment has been widened to include more police stations.

In Kerala the shift system is in place in 57 of 503 stations, but with little success. The reasons are again heavy workload and shortage of manpower. Moreover, the urban-rural divide is thin in Kerala and the settlements are also dense.

In Andhra Pradesh, anti-Naxal operations have brought many personnel into its fold. A duty in this unit could in some cases stretch up to five days at a go. Police personnel working under law and order, traffic and Armed Reserve spends 16 hours, 12-14 hours and 14 hours respectively.

In Telangana, police personnel working in Hyderabad and Cyberabad Commissionerates follow shift system with some changes while those working in the rural areas are made to work for longer durations.

In Delhi, the police are believed to be relatively better off. The police system has a shortfall of only 6,000 personnel from its sanctioned strength of 84,500. But this does not offer respite to the workload. The police stations function with just half of the mandated strength due to the deployment of several personnel on VIP security, reserve forces, armed forces, special units etc.

Chennai too grapples with manpower shortage. The police system has 18,000 personnel against the sanctioned strength of 25,000. But nearly 12,000 officers have been deployed for other duties leaving the rest of the personnel to work for extended hours.

What are the findings and recommendations related to the working conditions of the police officers?

A recent study conducted in 2015 titled ‘National requirement of Manpower for 8-Hour Shifts in Police Stations’ was conducted by Bureau of Police Research & Development, Government of India (BPRD) & the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI). The study involved extensive field survey spanning 23 States and 2 Union territories. The following are some of the major findings:

  • 90% of the police staff in the country currently toil for more than 8 hours a day.
  • 68% of the police officers had reported that staff working under them works for more than 11 hours a day and 28% of the officers report their staff work for more than 14 hours a day.
  • The country’s Police to Population ratio was found to be 145 personnel for 1 lakh population which is very much below the UN recommended ratio of 222 personnel per 1 lakh population.
  • In order to move effectively to a shift system, 68% additional manpower has to be recruited.
  • 73% of the personnel have reported that they do not get a weekly off even once a month.
  • 76% of the personnel were found to have health problems due to the long stressful working hours.

The report has called the current working hours of police personnel as “alarming” and has also pointed out that they are not in consonance with Indian labour laws nor in compliance with provisions of Article 42 of the Constitution. The report also noted that the long working hours were responsible for the rude behavior of the police with the public, which in general diminished the image of police among the masses.

Apart from the above study, the National Police Commission had also recommended for shorter shifts for police personnel.

What are the ill effects of heavy workload on the well-being of the policemen?

The ill-effects of working conditions are very much visible in the physical and psychological health of the personnel. The personnel are reported to suffer from joint pain due to standing, acidity, stress, sleeplessness, fatigue etc. In addition the inability to maintain healthy work-life balance has affected the performance, morale and motivation of the personnel. In addition adverse working conditions have also prevented the talented individuals from making a choice for police profession and thus adversely affecting the quality of manpower available for recruitment.

What are the reasons for long working hours?

  • The reasons are many. According to the 2015 study, the following facts were responsible for long working hours:
  • Shortage of manpower. States feel that by sanctioning additional staff they would entail a huge additional financial burden on their exchequer. In addition, they have to take care of the training and other needs.
  • Ever increasing law and order problems and VIP security work.
  • Ever increasing magnitude and complexity of crime perpetrated.
  • Disorganized functioning of police system.
  • Inadequate infusion of technology into the police work.
  • Repetitive demands for investigation and data pertaining to the same case from various quarters.
  • Diversion of manpower on various attachments and court work processes.

What is the way forward?

Infusion of technology

The state police can make extensive use of technology for increased automation of traffic management and law enforcement to overcome the manpower shortage. In addition, introduction of other force multiplier mechanisms and outsourcing some non-core tasks can ease the burden on the policemen.

Increase in manpower

According to the data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total manpower sanctioned for all police stations for the entire country turns out to be 6,75,115 during 2013. But as per a study conducted by Bureau of Police research and Development (BPRD), total manpower strength of state police forces should be 22,09,027. The experts feel that augmentation of the police strength by inducting at least 3,37,500 personnel would make the total strength to a little over 45% of the required strength. This would make the police to population ratio to become 173 per 1,00,000, which will also lower than the UN mandated 222 per 1 lakh ratio. But at least it would be of some help in ensuring effective policing. Further, it is suggested that the strength of the police force should be increased in phases until the recommended strength is reached.

Shift system

Introduction of shift system is the need of the hour for efficient and people friendly policing. It is also felt that since the government bears the health care expenses of the police, it could be wise on the part of the state governments to spend to have more manpower and operate in shifts rather than spending more on these health issues, which will automatically get reduced if the working hours of the policemen gets shortened and healthy work-life balance is ensured.

It is observed that most of the countries across the world follow shift system. Countries like Australia, South Africa, Japan, Hong Kong, UK, Canada, and USA follow shift systems with some differences.