September 12, 2019
You see them everywhere trying to help people – during natural disasters, at events in religious places, during elections and more. They put themselves at risk to protect the general public. The Coimbatore Home Guards unit truly embodies the spirit of service before self.
A sense of duty is foremost in the minds of this unit, always putting service before self, and proudly so. It is this principle that has guided the Coimbatore District Home Guards since its inception as an auxiliary and paramilitary force of the Indian Police in 1946. It has three units, one each in Pollachi, Mettupalayam and Thudiyalur.
Speaking to The Covai Post, K Sidharthan, Assistant Commander, Pollachi Unit Home Guards, Coimbatore, says, “We currently have 387 members in the district, of which 55 are women. We are headed by area and deputy area commander, divisional commander and company commander for each unit. The company commander is followed by other hierarchies. We basically work on traffic diversion, crowd management, temple crowd control, election duties and others. The Coimbatore district Home Guards participate regularly in clean India campaign, awareness rallies and programmes.”
Recruitment into the Home Guards is open to all Indian citizens above 18 years of age without criminal records. They should have passed Std.X and should have a healthy physique. “Since it is a voluntary service, we are not so strict about eyesight and other physical qualifications. Candidates have to fill an application which is verified by local police and appointment is usually given within 10 days. There is no written exam. They are provided police uniforms and given about 45 days training after recruitment,” says Sidharthan.
The training covers parade marching, basic police training on discipline, wearing uniform, military and public etiquette. “We are like a bridge between the police and the general public, so it is a dual role,” says Sidharthan.
Some Home Guards get extra intensive training every year at the Civil Defence Academies in Ooty, Nagpur and Bangalore. They are taught weapon handling, commando tactics, flood relief and rescue work during natural calamities. About five to six batches are sent to these academies every year. Coimbatore Home Guards have offices attached to police stations at Mettupalayam, Thudiyalur and Pollachi.
The Coimbatore Home Guards are chief helpers at election booths and polling stations. Since it is a voluntary service there is no fixed salary or emoluments. “Until recently we had to serve compulsory 16 days per month , which has now reduced to five days. We get Rs.560 per day for our uniform and travel allowance. We are provided police vehicles but only for long distances. Mostly we use our personal vehicles like two-wheelers or public transport to duty venues within a 15-20 kilometre radius,” says Sidharthan.
“Many Home Guards working in other professions inform their employers in order to get immediate permission if called for duty during office hours. Many attend to such calls immediately, sometimes forgoing family functions also. Most families are proud of their Home Guard relatives as it is like police duty with uniform,” adds Sidharthan.
The Home Guards with skills like driving, shooting and self defence are given preference during recruitment. They are even asked to train new recruits.
The Coimbatore District Home Guards also have annual meetings and an in-house periodical that publishes articles about their activities. “Many of our Home Guards are doing selfless service with dedication as this work has no fixed salary, emoluments and duty hours,” says Sidharthan, who has himself completed six years of service with his unit.