A Neglected KPS

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Babus and the cops are twin appendages of the same government, one managing the files and the other, the street. But KPS as a service is facing a chronic stagnation because they feel the government is pro-KAS, every time a policy is framed, reports Shams Irfan

On July 8, 2016, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) rank officer, left office early to hang out with his colleagues at an uptown coffee shop in Srinagar, when a text message alerted him to an encounter in remote Kokernag.

For a 2011 batch Kashmir Police Services (KPS) officer like him, news of a gun battle was routine, especially when it comes from the south Kashmir. But as he learned that Burhan Wani, the popular Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander was slain, he literally jumped from his seat and rushed towards his car. Within five minutes, he was racing towards his home in city outskirts.

“I knew his killing will trigger a reaction, but I had no idea it will be so huge,” he said.

Once home, he quickly had dinner, packed a few belongings, and left in his personal vehicle towards one of the sensitive police stations in Srinagar, where he was posted.

“As the situation worsened, I had no idea when I will see my home again, or see it at all,” he said.

But when he finally visited home after 45 days, in the dead of the night, he had a permanent souvenir of the post-Burhan situation with him: four stitches on his forehead. “I was hit by a stone during one of the protests in Srinagar,” he said pointing towards his forehead.

As Burhan killing changed the situation quickly on the ground, all of a sudden being a cop seemed not a good option after-all. “But despite being in the line of fire, we carried on with our jobs with pride,” said the officer.

Almost two years later, on April 24, 2018, after State Cabinet approved ‘grant of time-bound grade promotion for the Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) officers’, leaving out their counterparts in the police (KPS), it triggered a storm of sorts among the young policemen like him.

“All of a sudden we feel like an unwanted lot within the system,” said another DSP rank officer who wishes to remain anonymous. “We felt discriminated.”

However, the resentment against “discrimination” and stagnation in profile and pay among young police officers is not new. It has been there since 1999 batch of KPS officers got promoted as Superintendent of Police (SP), in 2005.

After 1999 batch, the next batch came in the year 2001, but unlike their seniors, it took them 13 years to get promoted.

The reason 1999 batch didn’t highlight the disparity between KAS and KPS, was that they got key postings because of the fact that the last recruitment had happened in 1984, leaving a vacuum of local police officers for almost 15 years.

“All of them got promoted to SP ranks within six years of joining as DSP’s,” said a young officer.

Unlike the present lot of KPS officers, who join police young as DSP’s and if lucky, reach the level of SP, and get just two salary hikes in over three decades of services, things were different earlier.

Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah, for instance, started his career as a Sub Inspector (SI) and retired as Director General of Police (DGP) in 1985. There are more instances of meteoric rises within the police like Shah’s.

But without a proper caderisation in place for KPS officers, such a rise in the current system is almost impossible.

During 2008, 2010 and 2016 uprisings, it was native KPS officers who were given key postings in Special Operations Group (SOG), and posted in sensitive areas to tackle operations.

“But despite being at the frontline, we couldn’t get the same treatment as our counterparts in civil services when it comes to promotion and pay hike,” said another officer who was posted in Islamabad during 2016.

A KPS officer of 2008 batch, he recalls his near-death experience while managing Islamabad town in post-Burhan days. “Usually, we used to secure sensitive areas in the town half-an-hour before dawn,” he recalls. “This helped us keep things in check for rest of the day.”

But, one day, he and his team, reached Janglat Mandi area after daybreak. “We were shocked to see all roads blocked with boulders and tree trunks,” he said.

As the officer and his men got down from their vehicles to clear the road, around five-hundred boys, carrying stones and lathis, cornered them from all sides. “We jumped back into our vehicles but couldn’t get out,” he said. “I have never seen such intense stone-pelting in my entire career. That day I thought I will not get out alive.”

Even after 10 years of service this officer is still a DSP and draws same pay as he used to do when appointed.

“My friends, who opted for KAS, work 10 to 4 and have already been promoted with one pay hike,” said the officer. “At times, I regret my decision of choosing police services over civil services.”

A native of nearby Kulgam district, the officer said, he managed to visit his family after fifteen months of Burhan’s killing, that too in the dead of the night. “Hum be-Ghar ho Gaye 2016 ke badh (We are homeless after 2016),” he said.

But the watershed movement, as the young KPS officers call it, came in 2012, the year two batches were inducted for services in both civil and police. That year, out of 189 vacancies 122 were for police. Once the selection list was out, only 105 went to Udhampur for training, and out of them, only 92 are currently serving.

One among them was Sheikh Tariq, now 31, who left police services after completing one year’s training in Udhampur. “During the course of training I started preparing again for exams for 2012 second batch was due,” said Tariq.

The reason Tariq opted out of police services was lack of timely promotion and disparity in pay. “Besides, there is no social life for a KPS officer,” said Tariq.

Now posted as Deputy Registrar Cooperative, Baramulla, Tariq is happy to serve 10 am to 4 pm, and spends rest of the time with his family. “I qualified 2012 second batch and opted for KAS,” said Tariq. “I am really happy with the switchover.”

But Tariq is not alone, 30 others left police services after clearing KPS in 2012 first batch and took exams again.

Interestingly, a number of officers from 2011 and 2012 batch who cleared KPS, are fed up with the stagnation and pay disparity, to the extent that they are planning to switch back to their previous jobs. “I know some people who already have seven years of service in the police but still appear for non-gazetted posts like Naib-Tehsildars,” said a young DSP rank officer. “This way we are making police an unattractive option for youngsters,” said a senior officer.

But the worst affected is 2008 batch, that still serves as DSP’s and is in the entry-level Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 4800. “Even in summers they wear sleeveless jackets over their uniforms in order to hide their ranks,” said a 2015 batch officer. “They are our seniors but still have same rank and pay-band. It is really embarrassing for both of us when we meet or socialise.”

Interestingly, those who qualified KAS in 2008 were promoted twice so-far with at least one pay hike.

“In police, after 15 years of service one can wear SSP rank, but they are still drawing a salary at par with the entry-level officers,” said one officer.

These officers are aware that govt cannot promote all KPS officers to the next rank in a time bound manner, as promotions are subject to the availability of vacancies, but why cannot they be moved to the next pay band?

“We demand a time-bound placement in next higher pay grade, irrespective of the availability of vacancies, and/or without any rank promotion,” said a 2008 batch KPS officer. “After five years of service, a KPS officer should be moved from Rs 4800 to 5600 Grade Pay (GP) level automatically. Also, he should be able to rise up to Rs 8700 GP, irrespective of rank promotion.”

A senior SSP rank officer, who is from 2001 KPS batch, says the problem lies in the system itself as “seniority has not been fixed yet.”

One cannot be a DIG or IG unless he/she is not inducted into the Indian Police Services (IPS).

However, since 2010, the induction process remained suspended due to litigations between direct recruit DSPs and promoted DSPs. Till July 2017, the number of vacancies in IPS promotion quota was 51. “But I am sure government will take serious note of it and resolve the issue soon,” said the officer.

But after approval for time-bound grade promotion for the KAS, young KPS officers are mulling to have an association or union of their own, to press for their demands. “It is time we get together and fight for our rights,” said a 2012 batch KPS officer. “We have to fight this battle on our own as well.”  as well.”

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