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Social perversity: Police insensitivity and public outcry

April 23, 2013 14:32 IST

Instead of lamenting that the police is not doing its job, it is the duty of all citizens to bring these issues out in the open. We must try to find out what is going wrong and try to check this social malaise before it acquires demonic proportions and puts our country to shame before the civilized world, says Anil Chowdhry.

Another incident of rape and bestiality in the capital, perhaps even more shocking than the gang rape in a bus in South Delhi on December 16, 2012. The victim was a five-year-old girl child.

One more round of public outcry and demonstrations against the Delhi Police over poor response to the horrible crime, despite prompt action against officers alleged to have delayed action on the complaint by the child’s parents and misbehaviour against a woman demonstrator. They were placed under suspension and an inquiry instituted the very next day.

The success of the Delhi Police in quickly apprehending the culprits from across states, as in the case of the apprehension of accused in the gang rape case, as also the basic issue of checking the depravity which appears to have overtaken Indian society got buried under the weight of the public/ media attacks, even calling for the scalp of the police commissioner

The police official who told the parents to be happy that the child was alive and offered Rs 2,000 to hush up the case deserves to be severely punished The manhandling of a young girl demonstrator is also unpardonable. If the inquiry establishes their culpability, they should be given exemplary punishment.

But let us be a little more patient and balanced in raising a noise and also bringing life to a standstill in some parts of the city. Whether the owner of the one room tenement which was taken on rent by the culprit just one week back had taken the requisite steps to get his antecedents verified, also needs to be gone into. Each one of us needs to play a role in making our society safer instead of leaving it to the police to do everything.

Have we pondered over how families, including children of tender age are crammed in the jhuggis and jhopris dotting Delhi and other metropolitan cities of India housing migrant casual labour from the poorest and most deprived areas of our country. Such match box structures can be seen all over East Delhi where sexual assaults on innocent children sometimes by family members and neighbours under the cover of darkness are quite rampant.

These clusters are breeding ground for all kinds of crime, and a nightmare for those called upon to police them. Why the same concerned citizens whose shock over this ghastly incident is being loudly heard in all media, private, public and social have not visited these JJ colonies to address the basic needs like health, sanitation, safety of the children of the occupants? How many TV channels carry programmes to focus public attention to these areas of darkness of our capital city. I know that there are a few NGOs who are trying to provide educational and recreational facilities to slum children, but these are just a handful.

My attempt is to focus attention on some core issues thrown up by this ghastly incident and the need to address them collectively. The extent to which Indian society has sunk in the area of commission of crimes against women, and the apparent impunity with which such crimes continue to be committed in all parts of the country is indeed a matter of serious concern.

Much more media attention is naturally received when such cases occur in the capital. The basic issue of decline in family and social checks over deviant behaviour, parenting, schooling, or lack of it deserve attention. A serious debate needs to be started at every available forum by including not only the intelligentsia and the political leadership but also representatives of the underprivileged living in our villages and slums of our cities who have to bear the brunt of sexual abuse of children and other forms of sexual crimes.

Instead of lamenting that the police is not doing its job, it is the duty of all citizens to bring these issues out in the open. We must try to find out what is going wrong and try to check this social malaise before it acquires demonic proportions and puts our country to shame before the civilized world.

While on the subject of rising crimes against women, I can’t but help drawing attention to a general climate of disorder and disregard for law which is visible to all of us on roads and public places in Delhi. Multiple factors responsible for this very undesirable phenomenon need to be gone into in depth and remedial action set afoot. For this I suggest zero tolerance for offences committed in public places -- whether it is the use of cell phones by drivers, riding three on a two wheeler, peeing on the road side, or causing obstruction by wrong parking, encroachments on public thorough fares.

I am suggesting following the “broken windows” principle of criminal psychology by the police and municipal authorities in letter and in spirit to inculcate a healthy respect for law among the citizens of Delhi. If petty crimes are checked, the more serious ones will automatically decline. This has been applied successfully in New York which was considered the world’s crime capital in the eighties, but witnessed a sharp decline in the nineties when the NYPD commissioner applied the “broken windows” technique.

Involving the community in  policing under the various schemes like “Neighbourhood Watch”, appointment of traffic wardens etc which have been successfully tried not only abroad but also in some parts of our own country are also  a must to make Delhi a safer city. A regular interface between the beat police officers, schools, colleges and respectable/law abiding citizens of   localities’ under their jurisdictions should also help in building public confidence in the police, which is sadly lacking.

Let us also rationalize the deployment of police men on so called VIP security duties to enable them to devote more attention on providing safety to the ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, to make the police more people friendly and service oriented we need to attract persons of higher calibre, education, and better orientation to our civil police manning Stations and posts at the level of constables and subordinate police officers, especially in our metropolitan cities. They are the most visible functionaries of the government with maximum public interface.

The minimum qualification for constables should immediately be made graduation and their compensation packets doubled. Their recruitment should be entrusted to the state public commissions through open competitive examinations. Many of my friends belonging to the elitist sections of Delhi often compare Delhi police constables with the ‘London Bobby’ who incidentally became the highest paid civil servant in the UK following  a country  wide strike by policemen all over England in the early eighties.

In my view, unless this is done, all lessons on sensitizing police men to the problems of the weaker sections imparted at the various orientation courses in police training schools shall continue to be merely exercises in futility just to fill statistical columns of forms prescribed by the bureaucrats.

India being a poor country we cannot afford this, the opponents of police reforms might argue. The solution I suggest is to drastically curtail expansion of the paramilitary forces and spend the money thus saved on civil police men manning police stations and posts both in term of quality and quantity. If there is a price to be paid for peace and better protection of the life and property of the aam aadmi, let us pay it.   

Anil Chowdhry, IPS (retired) is former secretary, internal security Union home ministry.


Anil Chowdhry