September 2000 News

My Security Officer Is Useless, He Can''t Cook, Even Make Tea.

5 September 2000
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: The Inspector General of Police (Security wing), Mohammad Ashraf, receives a letter from Bhagat Chunni Lal, a block president of the national Conference from Chirali in Doda district. ''The personal security officer (PSO), you sent me is of no use. He is negligent of his duties. He doesn''t even know how to prepare tea and cook food. He even refused flatly to work in the kitchen,'' the politician from the state''s ruling party writes. He asks the security chief to send him a zimmedar (responsible) man as his PSO within the next three days, because his wife is soon to return from the village. A halwai (sweet vendor) at murgi chowk in Jammu approaches the authorities for personal security after a firing incident outside his shop. Being close to a powerful political party, he is assigned a security guard. After a few months, the halwai realise there is no threat to his life, but he does not want to lose the man deputed by the government, whom he does not need to pay a single rupee for his services. He asks the policeman to dump his weapon and help him at the shop. Soon the policeman deputed to protect the halwai is busy scooping out jalabees. And when senior police officers transfer him, the halwai obtains a stay order from the court. The policeman is finally moved when the senior officers send him on a training course. These are not the only cases where protected persons in Kashmir have been misusing their security personnel as domestic servants. As may as 4000 policeman deputed as PSOs are being forced to work as personal servants by politicians, bureaucrats or any other protected persons. In addition, about 1000 drivers of the police department are deputed with the VIPs because about 800 vehicles, generally bullet proof gypsies, have been issued to the protected persons. Having a personal security guard becomes a point of prestige for people, especially middle-rung politicians and trade unionists who get an automatic license to behave however they want to by flaunting a gun wielding policeman on their personal security. ''It is a big problem for us in Jammu city and Udhampur, where people have started judging the importance of a political worker or any important man by the security cover he enjoys,'' a senior police officer of the security wing said. The policeman on security duties too have a tough time. ''It is impossible to say no to our bosses. They are powerful and can do whatever they want. So we have no way other than to listen and follow their dictates,'' said Ali Mohammad, a selection grade constable. ''I have been attached to a politician for the last three years,'' he explained. ''My work includes taking his children to school and get them home. I also buy milk and bread every morning and accompany Bibiji (the politician''s wife) to shopping and everywhere,'' he said. The protected persons, in a bid to save on petrol, get into the escort vehicles (the cost of their fuel is borne by the government). ''The National Conference provincial president G.N Shaheen was travelling in his escort gypsy (rather than the bullet proof ambassador assigned to him) when he was hit by a landmine, maiming him for life,'' a senior police officer of the security wing said. ''The reason is very clear, The government pays for the fuel of the escort vehicle and not the bullet proof vehicle of the protected person, so they abandon the bullet proof and jump into the escort gypsy to save on money,'' he said. The security wing of the J&K Police, of late, has mooted a proposal to charge a fee to the protected persons as if they were running a commercial institution like a hotel or a clinic. ''If the protected persons are earning enough money through their businesses, they must bear the cost of their personal security,'' a senior police officer of the security wing said. He said that a few leading doctors of the valley have ordered their security officials to line up the patients in orderly fashion. ''They (the doctors) can easily pay the cost of keeping the security.'' he said. Recently, the personal security official''s job has turned into a fatal assignment. ''During the past two years, all the PSOs who died lost their lives in attacks on politicians and bureaucrats,'' a senior officer said. And the security assignment remains a thankless job for police. ''If the protected person escapes a militant attack, it is well and good. If not, the PSO will either die protecting him or face the wrath of the higher ups,'' a PSO said. The security wing encounters another grave problem. The politicians have their favourites in the police force, whom they want as PSOs. ''It is impossible to touch these favourites after they take over as security guards,'' a security wing official said.


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