15 March 2007

The sweet smell of excess

A number of sources, including the BBC and Reuters, report that police in the Indian state of Gujarat are to be issued with new cotton uniforms impregnated with special fragrances which also glow in the dark and make overweight officers look more svelte :

The co-ordinator of the apparel design section of India's National Institute of Design (NID), Somesh Singh, told the BBC that the idea to design more fragrantly pleasing police uniforms was agreed with the police authorities last month.

"The purpose is to do away with the perspiration odour," he said. "We have decided to make these uniforms more sweet smelling. Three different fragrances - jasmine, rose and citrus will be incorporated into these uniforms."

Mr Singh said that the designs would use the latest fibre optic technology to make sure the uniform not only smells good but glows at night so officers can be seen more clearly. He said the uniforms had also been specially designed to make overweight policemen look more streamlined when they are on the beat.

"They have been designed in a manner to ensure that the paunch of the wearer does not draw the attention of anyone looking at him," Mr Singh said.

In the Reuter's report Mr Singh alludes obliquely to the Indian police's reputation (also suggested by the photos accompanying the BBC report and depicted in several contemporary novels eg Vikas Swarup's Q&A) for robust operational methods:

"Most policemen look hassled, drenched in sweat after coming from any scene of crime," said Somesh Singh...They are surely not the best person one would like to meet, but if they smell good and fresh one might as well approach them."

And the police? The Reuters report quotes an Indian English speaking officer:

"We are tired wearing the thick cotton brown colour uniform with a broad belt and plastic badges for several decades now," said R.K. Patel a senior police officer."If the new uniforms makes us stand out in the crowd, keeps us active with pleasant aroma and is yet very formal, then we are all for it."

PS The Indian cricket team is also hoping to steal a march (or a few runs) on its opponents by adopting a uniform which is 15% lighter in weight than its predecessors. I'll say more about this on Nudges and Deflections.

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