Simmering anger amongst policemen of Chhattisgarh and their families at their oppressive working conditions and pitiable wages and allowances, has burst out in mass agitations. At the forefront of these agitations are women — the wives of serving policemen. Chhattisgarh has a police force of about 50,000.
Wives of policemen have organized numerous protest actions in June in different district centers. On 19th June, hundreds of women participated in a protest demonstration in Rajnandgaon. As part of the agitation, families of policemen from the districts near the capital Raipur announced a protest rally in Idgah Bhata Maidan in Raipur for 24th June.
Policemen of the state have been putting forth their grievances to their senior officers for a long time. Instead of redressing their grievances, the government has been victimizing those who dared to raise their voice. In such a situation, the agitating policemen used social media to highlight their demands.
The state government has unleashed a reign of terror on the agitating policemen and their leaders. Hundreds have been served show cause notices. Leading activists have been suspended, some have been dismissed and arrested. The phones and social media sites of the leaders have been put under surveillance of the intelligence agencies. All policemen communicating with these leaders have been targeted.
A top officer of the Chhattisgarh police gave a public warning, carried through social media, and news media, to the agitating women, threatening to identify them and take action against their husbands.
On 24th June, the authorities demanded that all policemen report to their stations and sign undertakings declaring that they would not participate in any agitation. In this situation of terror, many policemen in different districts of the state are reported to have turned off their mobiles.
On 24th June, all vehicles entering Raipur as well as trains coming into the railway station were searched to prevent wives of policemen from participating in the proposed rally. Roads leading to the rally ground within the city were blocked off. In the face of all this, hundreds of wives of policemen gathered at the maidan and courted arrest.
The agitating policemen and their families have put forth an 11-point charter of demands. They have demanded an increase in their basic pay grade to Rs 2,800 and increase in uniform, conveyance and other allowances. Their demands include free medical care, better housing facilities, a weekly day off, an eight hour working day and overtime allowance for working longer hours. They have demanded that in case of death of a policeman while on duty, his family should be compensated monetarily on the lines of what such policemen get in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, as well as it must be ensured that one member of his family is given a job.
The terrible conditions of the policemen can be seen from some of the facts highlighted during this agitation. They receive an allowance of Rs 100 a month for nutritious food. They are paid Rs 60 for maintaining their uniforms, and Rs 200 as medical allowance. They are paid a measly conveyance allowance of Rs 25-30, when they travel on duty. An agitating wife said that the same conditions of service that colonial rulers imposed on Indian policemen, have continued.
The vast majority of policemen in our country are from families of workers and peasants. In their hearts, they share the weal and woe of workers and peasants. Those in power routinely use the police force to suppress the just struggle of workers and peasants. Policemen are prevented from organising themselves in defence of their rights. When they dare to voice their grievances and demand their rights, they are suppressed in the same way as other working people are suppressed.