Finger of suspicion at homeguard–police nexus after Borjhar extortion incident
A police constable, Jakir Hussain and 3 home guards - Sharif Ali, Nayan Das and Bijit Das, were arrested for extorting money from vehicles mafia-style at Borjhar.
There have been numerous allegations against the Borjhar police outpost for unwanted harassment and extortion in the name of vehicle checking.
It has been alleged by some vehicle drivers that in the past, the Borjhar police outpost officials had remained mum to all these allegations.
But this time, bowing to pressure from superiors, the outpost officials had to file an FIR, acting on which, Azara Police Station arrested the accused on 14th May.
After this incident, it has come to light that home guard personnel are supposed to be attached to one police station for only six months. But there are some police stations in Guwahati where the same home guard personnel have remained attached beyond this specified period.
A senior police official talking to G Plus said, “In the Jorabat police outpost there is one home guard personnel who remains in office even when he is not on duty.”
The police official explained that there are nexuses between local police officers, constables and the home guards. Some home guards are close to the constables and the lower level police officers in the police stations and so, remain in office even when they are not on duty.
A home guard personnel, according to the Assam Home Guards Act, can be attached to a particular place for only 6 months. After 6 months he gets reappointed again at a different place after a break, said Director General of Assam Home Guards, AP Rout.
But even after 6 months, the particular home guard personnel at Jorabat has remained attached to the outpost as he has a uniform and the local police want him to be there because of his “competence” in extorting money from the vehicles and shops located around Jorabat.
All the dhabas there sell liquor without a license. Whenever there is an imminent excise raid, the local police inform the shops accordingly.
Similarly, in many police stations in Guwahati, home guard personnel remain attached for a long time and along with it their nexus with the local police continue, said the senior official. He also said that the higher level police officers in the city have no knowledge about all this.
Best performing personnel are reinstated: City police
Though home guard personnel need to be changed every 6 months, the city police, defending the home guard personnel, said that the best performing personnel are reinstated.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) – Administration, Brajenjit Singha said, “Some home guard personnel are involved in very important works with the city police and we reinstate them after 6 months.”
He said that after six months, the personnel who are reinstated remain without pay for around 2-3 days. The city police officials request the home guard department to reattach the same personnel in the same place.
But only the best performing personnel get reinstated, the DCP said.
There are around 1,400 home guard personnel deployed in Guwahati who are engaged in various works with the city police.
Personnel who are technically savvy are involved in computer related works. Anyone with the knowledge of driving is used as driver. The home guards also serve as electricians, plumbers and are engaged in other works they are skilled at.
After six months, when their tenures end, it becomes difficult for the local police to function without them if they are good performers and hence they are reinstated.
Poor wages compel home guards to adopt illegal techniques
The home guard personnel are blamed for taking bribes and extorting from vehicles and other sources but the personnel blame the government for the scenario.
A home guard personnel working in a city police station said, “We get just around Rs 7,000 per month and it is very difficult to survive on that money; therefore we are compelled to earn some extra bucks.”
He also revealed that they do not keep everything for themselves. The earnings are deposited with the constable they are working under, who further gives it to the police officer. Home guards only get small cuts from the entire collection.
DGP of Assam Home Guards, AP Rout said, “They earn very less and we are planning to increase the wages soon.”
He also said that home guards are only trained for 3 months and then they are like volunteers who get hired whenever there is a requirement.
30% of the home guards are always without any work. Therefore, the 6 months formula is adopted so that everyone gets a chance to earn.
Another home guard said that even to get a chance to work with city police, senior officials have to be bribed. Without bribing them a good location attachment is impossible. A good location is where there are possibilities of extra income or is close to a personnel’s home.