This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhishek Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

2,000 People Are Helping The Police Fight Crime – For No Pay. Find Out Why

More from Abhishek Jha

Man sitting on a chair in an office. An Indian flag, images of gods, and a nameplate in the background.
Brij Mohan Sharma isn’t technically a policeman, but he has an arm-band and an ID-card that lets him act like one.

Brij Mohan Sharma is a stockist for Hindalco, and sells aluminium to retailers for a living. But that won’t be the first thing you learn about him when you visit him at his office in Old Delhi. A nameplate in Sharma’s office instead prominently identifies him as a ‘police mitra’. A photograph on his desk shows him wearing khaki, and can lead one to believe that he is an actual policeman.

Sharma isn’t technically a policeman. He hasn’t been trained in rules, laws, and procedures like police personnel are and doesn’t draw any salary like police officials. But he comes close. He has an arm-band and an ID-card that lets him act like the police. He manages crowds during Muharram or Kanwar processions, pacifies mobs, and, unlike common civilians, is also occasionally part of police-patrolling.

In his late fifties now, Sharma has been the police’s friend for about 15 years. Owing to his family’s “influence in the area” and his close relationship with the people in the area, he explains, the police have long sought his assistance. “They (the policemen) were in uniform. I was without uniform. I am also a policeman,” he says.

Who Is A Police Mitra?

In Delhi, a police mitra is a civilian enrolled with a police station or an entire district for “prevention of crime, maintenance of law and order and for better communication with citizens”. The scheme was launched late last year.

But just who are these people? And what are their motivations for assisting the police? After all, the government doesn’t pay them to do this work. More importantly, why does the police need to make these friends?

According to the standing order issued for their appointment, accessed by YKA, any able-bodied person above 18 years of age can offer to become the police’s friend in the area they live in, by filling an online application form, as long as they have a “good reputation” of having assisted the police in prevention of crime or in maintaining law and order. Claims made in the form are verified by the police through people living in the neighbourhood and criminal antecedents of the person checked before one is selected.

Exact figures are unavailable but, according to a Delhi Police press release, there seem to be around 2000 police mitras across the city. According to the standing order, they are are supposed to help the police out with a range of activities – from organising meetings in schools and colleges to reporting activities of criminals residing the area.

Such volunteers are at times professors, doctors, businessmen, or social workers. While making law and order arrangements, however, a senior officer tasked with mitras’ appointment told YKA, “It is easier for us to have somebody from the local area who has more say than us.” Other officers also said that volunteers are aplenty, but factors like ability to provide assistance at short notice, ability to provide information about crime in the area or capacity to work on local security issues help in choosing the right fit .

Sharma, for example, has experience in relief and rescue work, apart from his photograph in khaki, because he volunteers for the Civil Defence Corps. He is also a member of the Metal Traders Association in Basti Harphool Singh and claims to be the Mahamantri of the area’s Arya Samaj.

Why Assist The Police

A man standing in a room with the wall to his back and a desk covered with trophies and mementos nearby.
Growing up in an Old Delhi neighbourhood in the early eighties, befriending the police was first a necessity for Parvez Mian.

Parvez Mian, in his late forties, is a doctor by profession. A mitra for the Krishna Nagar police station, he has been working with the police for nearly three decades. On the walls of his residence-cum-clinic, in a narrow lane in Kanti Nagar, are multiple photographs of him with politicians like Sonia Gandhi and General V K Singh. Trophies and mementos commending him or his organisations for social work occupy cabinets and desks.

Growing up in an Old Delhi neighbourhood in the early eighties, befriending the police was first a necessity for Dr. Mian. He says “if there was a communal tension anywhere in India, curfew would be imposed” in Old Delhi localities too. He worked against this distrust by arranging meetings between the police and the community. After he shifted to the east in the 90s, he says he got a police post built in Old Seelampur with the help of donations from the public so that the police could arrive faster during riots, which were rife in ’92.

Vinod Madan, a businessman, who is also a mitra with the Krishna Nagar police station, is more reserved when speaking of his motivation for assisting the police. He says he was moved by the fact that the police have to work long hours and even during festivals. So he organises health camps for the police, assists in CCTV-installation, or arranges meetings with senior citizens and the RWA. His association with the police, he says, started in 2007 when he helped an SHO organise a havan.

Pushpa Sharma, a retired teacher, has an entirely different reason to help. Her work with the police revolves around helping women and children – something she feels strongly about.

Reducing the distrust between the police and the public is also an aspect she works on. “We do such activities that even a teenager girl doesn’t feel afraid of directly approaching the police,” she told YKA.

But beyond the mitras’ claims of selfless service, there are also hints of a need for power and influence. When Madan rides his scooty through the lanes of Krishna Nagar, passers-by, including policemen, greet him with respect.

When The Police Needs Friends

A woman holds an arm band and an ID-card identifying her as a Police Mitra.
Citizens “need some power to be able to intervene for maintaining law and order,” says Pushpa Sharma.

Explaining the necessity for the scheme, Pushpa Sharma says, civilians too “need some power to be able to intervene for maintaining law and order (on the street), because it is not possible for the police to arrive immediately”.

It is true that the police in India lack in resources. According to latest statistics of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, there are about 395 total policemen per lakh of population in Delhi.

But the police mitra scheme is not just about making up for this lack of resources. It seems to be a step in the direction of achieving the micro missions of the National Police Mission to ensure outreach through community policing.

What has until now mostly passed for community policing in India though is a provision for Special Police Officers (SPOs) under Section 17 of the Police Act of 1861. The legislation was imitated by states and UTs, including Delhi, while framing their respective Police Acts. Those selected have the powers of ‘an ordinary policeman’. But in Delhi, the new standing orders give mitras powers of only ‘an ordinary citizen’ under Section 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, although they are technically SPOs under the Delhi Police Act.

This clarity in distinction, however, seems to be missing. The mitras YKA spoke to repeatedly told YKA that the police tell them that they are like any other policeman.

Conferring such powers on civilians does not qualify as community policing. “Community policing is not policing by the community,” says a 2011 Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report. The report says that since policing – or enforcing the law – in itself “requires professional training”, say in the nitty-gritty of law, and “a unique skill set”, laymen should not be made to do it.

This misconception has led to abuses. The erstwhile SPOs of the Delhi Police, for instance, were purportedly disbanded because they started using nameplates to emphasise power, and because there were complaints of corruption and goondaism. Their tenure has now therefore been reduced. Brij Mohan Sharma was an SPO for ten years, but he can work as a mitra only for three.

Yet, the roles and functions of the police mitras continue to revolve mostly around assisting the police, and have nothing to do with holding the police accountable. Lack of accountability is also one of the problems the 2011 CHRI report held responsible for the public’s alienation with the police.

“It’s such a slippery slope between this and then really becoming, you know, the insidious thing that happens maybe when you have a vendetta against someone, and you want to implicate them in something,” explains Devika Prasad, Coordinator of the Police Reforms programme at CHRI.

Prasad also suggests community input in appointment of such mitras, so that police mitras don’t end up being the “local power brokers” and so that there is representation of all communities. Kerala’s amended Police Act, for instance, made an explicit provision for representation in their Community Contact Committees.

In Delhi, no such provision has been made. In its stead, even existing rules that remove this ‘local power broker’ equation seem to have been flouted. Although the standing orders require that “people with any vested or political interest do not get appointed”, Madan and Mian both have immediate political affiliations. While Mian has been an active member of the Congress and held several offices in Delhi, Madan is a cashier of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for Gandhinagar area. Madan also claims to be a former cashier of the Geeta Colony division of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Their association with the police seems to have had more influence in their selection than the prescribed rules.

For the police to be friends with the public then, it is not enough that members of the public are ‘friends of the police’. “They should assist people to be able to file complaints against the police,” Prasad suggests. She is not too hopeful though if that will happen anytime soon.

All photos provided by author. Featured image: Special arrangement
You must be to comment.

More from Abhishek Jha

Similar Posts

By Soumita Sen

By Zakir Ali Tyagi

By Nafisa Hasan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below