Mamata Banerjee on Monday said civic volunteers could be promoted as constables if they performed well and asked the home department to prepare guidelines to absorb them into police.
The proposal was mooted during the chief minister’s meeting with the secretaries of various departments at Nabanna. “The civic volunteers, who are performing well, can be promoted to the post of constables. The home department may prepare guidelines for this purpose,” an official present at the meeting quoted the chief minister as saying.
The civic volunteers assist the police mainly in traffic management, and sometimes during major festivals and political programmes. The proposal has come just ahead of panchayat polls.
“In 2018, civic volunteers could not be deployed in rural polls following a court order. Now, if some of the civic volunteers can be promoted as constables, they can easily be deployed in the panchayat polls,” said an official.
According to a rough estimate, the state has a total of 60,000 constables. About 48,000 of them can be deployed in the polls, but they are not enough to cover 77,000 booths if the elections are held in one or two phases.
“That is why Opposition parties demand the deployment of central forces. If the number of constables goes up after inducting civic volunteers into the police, the gap will be bridged to some extent,” said a bureaucrat.
More than 1 lakh civic volunteers are attached to police stations across Bengal. If 10 per cent of the civic volunteers are absorbed into the police, at least 10,000 more constables will be in the force. A senior bureaucrat, however, said the elevation of the civic volunteers to police constables would be easier said than done.
“Constables are recruited through the police recruitment board. If the civic volunteers need to be elevated as constables, they have to go through the tests conducted by the recruitment board,” said an official.
According to another source, the move may face legal challenges from people who appeared for exams for the recruitment of constables but could not make it to the force. The move drew a sharp reaction from the BJP as the party considers it an attempt to induct loyalists of the Trinamul Congress into the force.
“The constables need to have certain physical abilities and are supposed to be loyal to the Constitution. The civic volunteers, who were recruited on the basis of recommendations of local Trinamul leaders, can never conform to these two basic requirements to be part of the constabulary. We will oppose this attempt of inducting Trinamul cadres into the force,” said state BJP general secretary Jagannath Chattopadhyay.