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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Fat police feel the pressure
By Alistair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Thousands of Bangladeshi police officers could be taken off the beat for being too fat or too old for the job.

The government of Bangladesh is considering plans to withdraw more than 30,000 officers from active duty, and replacing them with younger, fitter officers.

The move is being considered as part of a drive to improve law and order in the country.

The sight of overweight policemen wearing sunglasses and yelling at errant drivers in the stifling heat is commonplace throughout most Bangladeshi towns and cities.

Under the plans, however, ageing, unfit officers would be taken off active duty to make way for a leaner, fitter type of policeman.


Those withdrawn from the streets could either be given clerical jobs, or could be made to take early retirement.

The sensitivity surrounding the initiative has meant that both the government and the police are reluctant to discuss it in public.

But Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has made no secret of her desire to improve law and order in Bangladesh.

For a while last year, the number of murders and rapes had risen so high that she was forced to deploy the army to help a demoralised, under-staffed police force fight the crime wave.

Worse-off than soldiers

The police throughout the country have a reputation for being poorly-led, poorly-paid, ill-equipped and corrupt.

The government hopes that the introduction of healthier policemen will go some way towards addressing the problems.

But critics say that matters will only improve once the police are paid the same as the army.

At the moment, they receive only a fraction of a soldier's salary.

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