Twelve-year-old Umesh Netam has been skipping school for three days
a week for the past five years. Not that he whiles away his time
with friends - the boy actually reports to the fourth battalion of
Chhattisgarh Police based in Mana, on the outskirts of state capital
Raipur, as a cop.
Netam is among about 100 boys and girls in the state who are working
in the police department and are nicknamed 'balarakshaks'.
As per the state government policy, if a member of the state police
dies due to an illness or in attacks by Maoists and criminals, his
or her children (aged five and above) can be appointed to the police
"We have basically inherited this from Madhya Pradesh as a means of
caring for the families of police personnel. The balarakshaks get a
monthly amount of Rs.5,000 before they are given a regular job in
the police department on a full salary when they turn 18 and
complete matriculation," Chhattisgarh's Additional Director General
of Police Giridhari Nayak told IANS.
"It is mandatory for the kids to report for duty three days a week.
They are mostly asked to do soft jobs like carrying files from one
table to another, but it surely affects their schooling," he
The child cops are mostly posted at the offices of the
superintendent of police of their respective areas, and report to
duty in police uniform which is given to them free of cost.
Netam, who comes from a poor tribal family in Dhamtari district, is
enrolled in a private school in Class 5.
"I skip school for three days for duty and it affects my education
heavily, but I compensate it by tuitions in the evening," he said.
His friend and 'colleague' Anurag, 10, who is studying in Class 4 in
the Mana area, said: "Balancing a police job and schooling is tough
for me. On days when I have to bunk school, I miss a lot of chapters
taught in class. However, my mother is very happy as I earn Rs.5,000
Chhattisgarh is the worst affected by Maoist insurgency in India.
And caught in the crossfire between the rebels and security forces
are many young lives.
Ashish Kumar Yadav, 17, is a Class 10 student of Government High
School in Raipur, and is posted at the superintendent of police's
office here. For him, his present job is a means to an end.
"I enjoy the duty because it's not a pressure job now. My boss
expects me to only carry files from one table to another, and I use
my spare time in office to catch up on my studies.
"Though next year I will be appointed as a constable, I will not
stop at this post. I aim to become an IPS (Indian Police Service)
officer and fight the Maoists who killed my father and forced me to
be a cop when I was just eight years old."
(Sujeet Kumar can
be contacted at email@example.com)