By Vikram Muthanna
The Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) with 14,000 Police personnel is a rather large force — both literally and figuratively. It seems, our cops have large figures and it’s becoming a problem. That is why a few days ago the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Bhaskar Rao, who is the Chief of KSRP, directed his men to lose weight or lose their job.
KSRP has a very important place in civil society as it is they who are called in to control riots and other violent outbursts in the State. Sadly, in recent times many KSRP personnel have died, not as martyrs but because of lifestyle diseases !
According to the Chief of KSRP, in the last 18 months, 153 KSRP personnel have died. Out of these, 24 died in road accidents and nine killed themselves. The rest, 120 officers died due to lifestyle-related diseases like cardiac problems and diabetes!
Bhaskar Rao, weighing in on the reasons for the weighty problem, said it’s because his officers predominantly consumed rice-based meals, ate fried food, smoked, consumed alcohol and failed to exercise.
The KSRP Chief is right and it applies to all of us. Today we have bad diets and bad habits which has led to an increase in deaths. We live a predominantly sedentary life and it’s a ‘sitty life.’ Yes, pun intended.
Interestingly, to combat this, the Kerala government in its 2016 budget introduced a ‘Fat Tax.’ They charged 14% tax on junk food and aerated drinks. Even UK has followed this strategy and has introduced a ‘Sugar Tax’ where products are taxed according to the sugar content in them.
Gujarat is also thinking of introducing the same. We are sure Karnataka which is trying to raise funds to offset the farm loan waiver could do the same, which could mean Mysuru Pak might get costly.
Now, this is not the first time that a Senior Officer has attempted to get our Police personnel in shape. Eight years ago, our then City Police Commissioner declared 2010 as the Year of Fitness for his Department. He had issued a circular to the Inspectors of all Police Stations to get fit. The Commissioner is gone, but the fat remains. Most of our Circle Inspectors are still quite circular.
Fitness must be made mandatory in jobs that are directly involved in saving lives and property. That is why when they have Police recruitment at Chamundi Vihar Stadium we see the aspirants are made to run, jump and climb. But once they join the service, most of them, let alone run, can barely bend.
While the Senior Officers want the Police personnel to get fit, they also should consider the working conditions. The Policemen and women are made to wait for hours during a VIP visit forcing them to eat junk food. Also deputation at odd hours ruins their sleep cycle affecting their emotional and physical health. This can be fixed only by Senior Officers.
Now, fitness is crucial to crime fighting for the simple reason that one has to be as strong as his adversary, not just mentally but also physically. We never see fat burglars, do we?
This fat cop problem plagues most States in our country. Last year a retired Army Officer in Kolkata filed a PIL along with 30 photographs showing the cops with heavy paunch.
The petitioner asked how could such fat Police protect citizens and stated that they were violating a rule as at the time of their appointment, they had signed a contract undertaking that they would remain physically fit and mentally alert to continue in service. The Court admitted the petition and asked the Police Department to take action.
Each job profile comes with its own requirements and the candidates must be forced to fulfill them to remain in service. Some time back, the Delhi High Court refused to accept an appeal made by an air hostess of Indian Airlines who was grounded on account of being overweight. Her appeal was rejected as her contract clearly said that her job profile required her to stay slim and trim as long as she remains an air hostess.
Now, we wish KSRP Chief Bhaskar Rao all the best considering what happened a few years ago in a district called Morena in Madhya Pradesh. Like Bhaskar Rao, the Superintendent of Police of Morena had sent circulars making fitness mandatory for all the Policemen in his district. He also warned the lax officers that if they did not show any improvement in two months, he would suspend them for being unfit for the job.
Instead of following orders and understanding the importance of being fit, the cops performed a ‘yajna’ for the SP’s transfer! It turned out these cops were not only unfit physically but also mentally. No, the ‘transfer yajna’ did not work, nor was there any news of the weight loss programme’s success.
Let’s hope the State Police personnel try to get rid of their fat and not the KSRP Chief by resorting to a ‘yajna’ for the General Elections are fast approaching and we need our KSRP personnel to be FIT in Khaki and not FAT in Khaki.