17 May 2010
By Viju B
Our men in khaki have braved many a terrorist and gangster, but they are loosing the battle against lifestyle diseases. In the last one year alone, Mumbai police lost 66 of its men to heart attack, jaundice and oral cancer.
Data procured from the police department shows that 42 cops succumbed to heart attacks, 16 to jaundice and 8 to cancer.
What’s worrying is the fact that there has been a steady increase in the number of cop casualties due to lifestyle ailments. While 37 cops died due to heart attacks in 2008, the figure jumped to 42 in 2009. Similarly, as against 12 cop deaths due to jaundice in 2008, 16 lost their lives to the disease last year.
Senior police officials blamed stress and long working hours for this worrying trend. The hectic work hours prompt many policemen to take up drinking and smoking. “Alcoholism is rampant, especially among the lower cadres,” a senior police official said.
With Mumbai on high alert most of the times, given the frequency of terror strikes on the city, cops have to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of the metropolis. Besides bandobast duty, policemen have to carry out regular patrolling and policing work. This, said officials, takes a toll. “We don’t have fixed duty hours and have to work for 15–16 hours daily,” said an officer. “Sometimes, we have to work for two weeks at a stretch without any break,” said a sub inspector posted in the western suburbs.
Some policemen also complained about lack of basic facilities, like clean drinking worker, at their posts. “I contracted jaundice after drinking contaminated water while on bandobast duty. I had to put in a 20–hour shift which left me dehydrated,” said constable Anil Parab.
Mumbai police has around 47,000 personnel. Of these, 23,705 policemen and officers were deployed for various VVIP and VIP bandobast duties in the last three years.
However, former top cops said that policemen are also to be blamed for their unhealthy lifestyle. “Many do not follow a healthy diet regimen and exercise routine,” Y P Singh, former IPS officer–turned–lawyer, said. “Many of the cops have blood pressure problems and diabetes. Lack of physical workout leads to obesity. All these precipitate heart attacks.”
Singh suggested that the Mumbai police, like the army, should conduct daily physical drills for its personnel. “Participation of policemen in these drills should be made mandatory,” Singh added.
He pointed out that each police station is supposed to conduct a fitness parade on Fridays. “But most of the stations never do it,” he said.
In order to combat the growing menace of lifestyle ailments, Singh said that the state government should demarcate work areas. “There should be a separate branch for VIP bandobasts. Similarly, there should be a dedicated team to carry out routine investigation,” Singh said.
Former top cop S S Puri, who headed the Special Investigation Team which probed the multi–crore Telgi stamp paper scam, concurred with Singh. “The Supreme Court had, in fact, directed all the states to have a separate division for investigation of crimes for effective and speedy policing.”