For the love of the uniform and the country!
Ever wondered how during a bandobast or a rally or a VIP visit, so many policemen suddenly spring around the city? Most of them are part of the Home Guard association of Tamil Nadu. Home Guards organisation of Tamil Nadu came into existence in the wake of Chinese aggression in October 1962, as per Tamil Nadu Home Guards Rules 1963. The organisation has civilians volunteering to the service. They are in nature an auxiliary force to the Police force. They assist the district Police administration in the maintenance of Law and order, crowd control, crime prevention, manning traffic points, and all types of , besides rendering rescue and relief measures during natural calamities like flood, cyclone, earthquake, epidemic, tsunami, landslide, etc. They also participate in the socio-economic and welfare activities such as adult education, health and hygiene programmes, Traffic awareness programmes etc.
During this lockdown, home guards can be seen at all crowded places including Thiruvanmiyur market and ration shops, controlling the crowd. Home Guards are paid on a per day basis - approximately Rs.560 per day and serve the government for a maximum of 20 days a month. They also do not get any transport or food or conveyance allowance. Any compensation in case of death or injury is also very low. Despite this, the Home Guards continue to support the police force with passion.
Patriotism oozes out when Veeramani Prakash, a Home Guard stationed at the Thiruvanmiyur ration shop, speaks, “We are doing this for our country. I need to do this for my country. I am so proud of my work. We were able to get a country like the US to its knees when it begged us for medicines. This is truly a proud moment.”
Veeramani explains the many struggles that the Home Guards go through during their postings, and especially during this pandemic. Being a voluntary service, they are often jeered at and paid paltry sums. Salaries usually take 3 months to reach them. During this pandemic, where many of them have been deployed, they have been promised only half of their regular wages, all this without any allowances as well.
While the police have been provided with gloves and masks, the Home Guards were provided with the protection gear much later. “The polypropylene masks are very uncomfortable. We work in the hot sun and wearing that mask was unbearable. It was very recently that we were given cloth masks. Same with the gloves. We have been provided with surgical gloves. And these burn our hands in the sun. We would be glad if someone could stitch us some cloth gloves,” says Veeramani.
He also goes on to explain how they have no respite from work to even relieve themselves or have their lunch. “Sometimes our hands are so dirty, and we have no water to wash our hands. Small gestures like providing a spoon to eat would be helpful,” he says.
The struggle for women Home Guards is worse. “While men can relieve themselves anywhere, the women can’t do that. Many houses do not let the women use the bathrooms. I request the people to please have some understanding in this regard,” requests Veeramani.
Home Guards are also involved in conducting awareness programs. “We cannot be hard on the public like the police, because we want them to listen to us. So we explain to the people on the road why they shouldn’t venture out and conduct awareness sessions in each of our localities,” he explains. Home Guards from Kannagi Nagar are constantly on the mike creating awareness on the Corona virus and advocating social distancing in their locality, he adds.
Despite their own problems, Veeramani empathises with the health department personnel who are also at the forefront of this deadly virus. “It is important the people respect even the nurses working there,” he adds.
On Apr.14, Tamil New Year, 18 of the House Guards contributed a day of their salary, personally prepared food and had it together with the destitute inmates of Kakkum Karangal, Thiruvanmiyur and later at the children’s home at their other branch. “Children will learn from what we do today. We want that tomorrow’s children must also do the same and teach their children,” elucidates Veeramani. Many other House Guards are in contact with various NGOs and inform them about the different requirements in underprivileged communities.
When asked what keeps him going, Veeramani tells, “We love this uniform. We could not become Police officers. Being House Guards is our way of still being part of the police force and serve the people.”
Adyar Times salutes the passion of all the front line workers in this pandemic!