The Centre’s proposal to make fitness a mandatory criterion for promoting Indian Police Service personnel has not gone down well with officers.
On July 5, it was reported that the Department of Personnel and Training had finalised draft service rules based on a recommendation from the Home Ministry that fitness be made a mandatory factor for awarding promotions to IPS officers. To be considered for promotions, the rules said, IPS officers would have to be in the “SHAPE 1” category – the highest level of physical and mental fitness.
However, IPS officers are poring over an unsigned letter that says the move seems to have been inspired less by ground realities and more by pop-culture and Bollywood movies like Singham, an Ajay Devgn-starrer about a police officer who takes on corruption. IPS officers Scroll.in spoke to said that once the letter is approved by senior officials, it will be sent to the Union Home Ministry and Department of Personnel and Training.
The letter, which Scroll.in has access to, vehemently protests the Centre’s recommendations and reached the inboxes of several IPS officers on Friday.
The letter said: “Unfortunately, these suggestions do not stem from a police officer who has served and led forces at the state and central forces. The very suggestion indicates that it has been suggested by a person enamored with Singham…and such popular culture movies. Much to their disappointment, the duty of an IPS officer is not like that as shown in the movies.”
The letter adds that the morale of the forces will not be raised “if an IPS officer is having six-pack abs and 45-inch chest” but instead through “innovative technology…better HR practices and…lasting systemic change”.
The letter contends that there may be instances where women officers on maternity leave or officers who have sustained injuries on duty may be unfairly ruled out for promotions.
When contacted for comment, the Secretary of the Indian Police Service (Central) Association, PVR Sastry said the association is yet to take an official position on the matter. “We are collecting views of senior members,” he said.
At present, IPS officers are required to pass a fitness test when they complete their training at the National Police Academy, before they are recruited into various cadres. Officers who fail the test are put on probation and given a chance to clear it later. An IPS officer who fails the fitness test several times can be discharged.
But if the new recommendations are implemented, officers will need to take the fitness test periodically. This would put the police force on a par with Group A officers of the Central Armed Police Force, the Home Ministry’s recommendations had said. The Department of Personnel and Training has asked all states and Union Territories to comment on the new rules, after which they will be finalised.
The letter by the senior IPS officer contends that better physical fitness could be achieved if the forces had eight-hour shifts and five working days a week and gyms with top-notch equipment.
The letter added, “It [requiring making fitness mandatory for promotions] is like asking the agriculture secretary, an IAS officer, to go to the fields and succeed out of farming and feed his family from that and his post depends on the success of the crops. Just like how a good farmer may not always be a good agriculture secretary. Or does the defence secretary fight every day from the borders of Kashmir or Arunachal?”
Towards the end, it takes up the case of women IPS officers and describes the Centre’s decision as “parochial and male chauvinistic”.
The letter said: “Many a time, women officers, both in police and other civil services, take maternity leave and then join training a year later after mothering a child…They are thus classified as temporarily medically unfit and asked to join training the next year…If their promotion is set off by one year because of that, they will remain one year junior to the rest of their batchmates for the rest of their career.”
Sastry, who is posted as a joint secretary in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, further said, “We are in support of the need of fitness but it [fitness] has to be clearly defined if it is to be implemented as a policy. Secondly, there are several domains of policing, such as security, intelligence, etc. And armed police is only one of the several domains. How can one straightjacket rule of fitness be applied for all?”