Armed only with sticks, they do the primary policing job risking their lives, and take care of the newborns and the deceased among other tasks in a village. In return, they have always been deceived and discriminated.
Their salaries are not paid regularly, and there is no issue of festival allowance at all.
Until their first national council held in Dhaka on April 9, the village policemen working in the Chittagong Hill Tracts had no idea that they are being paid much less than those in the plains.
The incumbent government is apparently reluctant to implement the recommendation mentioned in the Union Parishad Rules 2011 that suggested the Finance Ministry to upgrade their job status to fourth grade.
Moreover, no government felt it necessary to give them festival bonus even though the village policemen have to do extra work at that time. The then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, in 1995 promised that the government would give them Eid bonuses equal to their salaries.
It was 2009 when their salaries were increased last time. And when the government announced the new pay scale for public servants recently – almost doubling the salaries, the village policemen were kept out of the list of beneficiaries.
The force is operated under the Local Government Division. Generally, one village police member is deployed for one village while the dafadars lead all the members under a union. Currently, there are 38,232 village policemen and 6,652 dafadars deployed in 4,448 union parishads.
A member gets Tk2,000 per month while a dafadar is given Tk2,100. Half of the salary is paid by the UNO through bank accounts while the rest by the union parishads. There is a provision of giving them 1% of land registration cost which is around Tk1,000.
Since land registration is not in place in the CHT, the village police members and the dafadar do not get the 1%. Moreover, the union parishads do not pay them the 50% of the salaries citing fund shortage. Therefore, their salaries stand at Tk1,100 and Tk1,300 per month.
The members of the country's most neglected government agency shared their grieving experiences at the national conference held at the Central Shaheed Minar on Saturday, attended by some 20,000 members.
“The remuneration that the government is paying is very low considering the service we provide every day,” said Alamgir, a village police member from Lakshmipur.
“We have to do all the tasks of a police member. We have to guard the villages, assist the police in arresting criminals and accused, alerting them about any possible crimes, and updating the list of newborns and deceased people.
“Sometimes villagers get angry with us as we help the police arrest criminals and suspects. We have to work under constant threats of the criminals. But we have no security of ourselves.”
Alamgir said that even though they have to perform extra duty during festivals and political instability they are not given any bonus for the festivals. “How can I demand festival bonus while we are paid every three month?”
Asked about low pay and differences of salaries in the hills and the plains, Bangladesh Village Police Workers' Union Secretary General MA Alim told the Dhaka Tribune that they had raised the issues during the conference attended by three ministers.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan told the rally that he would inform the prime minister about their demands. Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu and State Minister for Finance and Planning AM Mannan also expressed solidarity with the seven-point demands.
About upgrading the status of the village police, Joint Secretary (union parishad section) of the LGRD Ministry Enamul Quader Khan said that the Finance Ministry were yet to give any response over the matter.
When contacted, Finance Ministry sources said that the current officials were unaware of the proposal. They suggested that the Local Government Division submit a fresh proposal regarding job status of the village police members.
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