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Duty hours ‘humane’ for airport jawans

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable Rabi Barman applied for leave to be by his mother’s side when she would be wheeled into the operating theatre. Denied leave and put on a 12-hour-day, he opened fire while on duty at Dum Dum airport, killing two West Bengal Police personnel and wounding two others.

That was February 2001, more than two years before Raj Namdev — another Central-pool constable — did something similar at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. He shot dead his superior for denying him leave to be by his father’s side when he underwent an operation, and held six colleagues hostage.

Mumbai has learnt its lesson, with the authorities trying to shore up the comfort-level of its jawans. Calcutta, with a longer ‘history’ of stressed-out securitymen running amok, has been following a liberal regimen for its men for the past few months.

The three features of this regimen are ‘humane’ duty-hours, allowance of leave due to them, and trying to ensure that as many jawans as possible can live with their families.

But the lesson was not learnt immediately after the Rabi Barman episode, despite CRPF deputy inspector-general Anil Kumar conceding the need for a “more considerate” approach to jawans’ demands, officials admitted. It actually took another incident a year later — two Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) constables misbehaving with passengers and colleagues — to make things better.

What has made the most difference, say officials, is the present 700-plus CISF roster. In sole charge of security at the airport, having a 700-plus figure at its disposal — with an almost non-existent list of vacancy — means that the jawans can be put on “humane” hours of duty, officials explain. “No jawan is now given an eight-hour-plus day,” said CISF commandant Sanjay Prakash, who took over charge on May 16.

Every CISF jawan has 45 days of leave every year (15 days of casual leave and 30 days of earned leave). In almost every case in the recent past, a CISF jawan has been allowed to go home, keeping in mind the requirements of the force, say officials.

“Though it (allowing leave) depends on the head of the unit, I am all for a liberal approach,” Prakash said. The non-existent vacancy-list has allowed the CISF to function “normally” even when 20 per cent of the jawans are on leave, say officials.

Efforts are also on to make it possible for the jawans to live with their families in the city, say officials. “The rules say 45 per cent of the accommodation has to be family-type and we are following that,” the CISF commandant said. “Many others keep their families in the city on the house-rent allowance,” he added.

But all this, stress officials, cannot guarantee that a constable will not run amok. A Central-pool force like the CISF has many jawans who are not from the state of posting and this contributes to a sense of isolation, culturally and linguistically, the officials explain.

“Often, Central pool personnel find themselves posted in places that have a well-entrenched racket involving state-cadre security personnel,” an official working in another Central force said. The “consequent frustration” contributes to stress.

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