The Rediff Interview/Bombay Joint Commissioner
of Police D Shivanandan
'Bombay is the safest city in the world'
While most of Bombay was on holiday and revellers went around celebrating Gokulashtami, Joint Commissioner of Police D Shivanandan was at work, fielding calls from his scattered force on both landline and mobile telephones, even while making time for an interview with A Ganesh Nadar in which he insists Bombay is the safest city.
Many multinational information technology companies are avoiding Bombay, as the perception is that it is a lawless city, with regular cases of extortion and killing. How does it compare with other Indian cities?
It is a misconception for which I mainly hold the press, television and cinema responsible. Bombay was the safest city in the world and it continues to be the safest. Even if there were apprehensions in 1998, it was a total misconception. If IT companies are not coming to Bombay, it may be due to political or economic reasons, or maybe Chandrababu Naidu's Andhra Pradesh or S M Krishna's Karnataka are more attractive.
Madras has been doing well from the beginning.
Bombay is the financial capital. If it is not the IT capital, it cannot be blamed on the law and order situation. If Naidu took the initiative, let us give credit to him.
However, we can assure professionals from any country that Bombay is safe.
In Bombay, there is vast social disparity, where 55 per cent of the population is homeless. There are stone-throwing incidents, road blockades and violence at the slightest provocation. How do you deal with this?
This is not the way of life here. When certain political parties were trying to make it big, they organised general shutdowns and other such activities. It is part of the social milleau and there are political developments with this.
Except for nature's fury in the last few years, nothing major has happened because the Shiv Sena was in power.
However, some passengers lost their eyesight when stones were thrown at trains, and fixing wire meshes on windows solved that problem. That should have been done some 10 years back.
We are fond of developing problems and then finding solutions. We are reactive and not proactive. If we had done this earlier, many people would not have lost their eyesight.
General shutdowns mean a loss of man-hours, but we lose millions of man-hours because of cricket and nobody talks about that.
We have had very few shutdowns in the last few years.
We see marriages being organised in public, which was not done two-three years back. How have you curbed incidents of extortion on such occasions?
Only October and November 1998 witnessed problems, but even that was more media hype. We made announcements on radio and television and in newspapers and convinced people not to pay up. I used to attend marriages even though I did not know the couples or their relatives, to instill confidence. Now it is a forgotten issue.
In movies, it has become the norm for heroes to take the law into their hands. Crime is glorified.
Yes, this happens in movies like Satya and Vaastav. Many movies are financed by gangsters for self-glorification.
The common people do not know from where the money is coming in. Chhota Shakeel and Chhota Rajan are financing various movies.
This influences people and adds to our problems.
What about the public perception that you either pay off criminals or, better still, you pay the police to protect you?
No, no, no. We have not taken a single rupee from anybody. We do not take money to protect poor people. If a rich businessman or film producer pays for protection, there is nothing wrong. Anyway, police protection is cheap compared to various security agencies. We have the backing of the law, which security agencies do not have.
But people must not pay off. Gangs are on the run. Recruitment is down. We have completely smashed the gangs. As off today, we are on top.
How do you handle corruption in the police force?
Corruption is a universal phenomenon, and exists in every department. Why single out the police?
Because we are talking about the police now.
It is because of social disparities. There are departments that are more corrupt than the police. Corruption benefits both parties. When you bring in smuggled goods, you pay only a part of the amount. But a policeman accepting Rs 20 from a taxi driver is immediately noticed. This campaign against the police has been on since Independence.
The police are supposed to be friendly with people, which they are.
The only solution to corruption is to pay them higher salaries and get more qualified people. Reduce the number of policemen and make it more officer and technology oriented.
When you pay peanuts you get monkeys. You recruit people who have studied till Standard VIII and pay them peanuts and expect them to be doctors, psychologists, leaders, lawyers, commanders... depending on what the situation demands. How is it possible?
Graduates should be made officers. It should be like in London, where a constable can become the chief commissioner.
Here, a constable will die a constable, and an Indian Police Service officer becomes chief of police. Let us reduce the number of people. Let us cut down on quantity and improve quality.
Sometimes, you feel that you are sitting on a time-bomb, when you think of Inter-Services Intelligence activities in Bombay. Is there a separate cell to deal with that?
No, the crime branch has been effectively dealing with ISI activities. The ISI is a problem, but there is no need to have nightmares. We should take all precautions. We have been alerting the public.
If people take precautions and inform the police, or various other agencies, nothing wrong can happen. When a society is aware of its rights and duties and security measures, nothing can happen. It may be possible in a place like Jammu and Kashmir, but not in Bombay. Particularly after 1992-93, people have become very aware.
How do you keep an eye on gang wars?
That is our job. The Bombay police has done a wonderful job. We are on top, which the gangsters have themselves admitted in newspaper interviews. They say the police has chased them away. They do not recruit people and they do not have guns.
What about encounters?
Encounters will continue. You and me are having an encounter now. What encounter are you talking about?
You know what I am talking about.
You tell me what you want to know.
The police have killed unarmed gangsters
So far the police have never killed unarmed people. The police have responded only when they have been under attack. People always had weapons. These people have murdered others in the city. No innocent person is killed in police encounters. The first round has always been fired by the criminal.
The criminals, only when they dare to take on policemen, are killed. We have arrested hundreds of criminals with weapons. It is there in the records. All have not been done away with by the police.
If we are fond of illegal activities, we should be wiping out everybody. Encounters occur only when policemen are attacked.
My right to live or my colleague's right to live, is supreme.
And we don't mind doing anything for that. I don't allow my policemen to die. Why should I? Is he getting paid a pittance to die? Who will look after his wife when he dies? Anyway, the man who dies is a criminal and it has been proved beyond doubt that he is a criminal by the high court and various other courts.
In the south, forest brigand Veerappan has kidnapped Kannada film icon Dr Rajakumar. In Bombay, the Muslim League is threatening to kidnap film-star Dilip Kumar.
As a Member of Parliament, Dilip Kumar is entitled to security. And we have been providing him security since the Fire controversy. We will protect him.
When Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was arrested, the police did a very good job and nothing happened. But the country felt that one man was holding the city to ransom.
It is again a perception. The city is rife with rumours. Schools shut down without consulting anybody; everything stops without consulting anybody. If people are waiting for something to happen and are on tenterhooks, we cannot do anything. It is high time they come together and decide to do something about the gangs. Stop paying them money, stop getting threatened by one man.
Come to terms with the situation and lead a normal life.
During the hijacking crisis, there was a vital breakthrough in Bombay. How did that happen?
After the hijacking, we toned up our intelligence. We knew there were some people waiting to loot a bank. Before they could strike, we found the money and arms and discovered their links to the hijackers. When we went there, we did not expect that. When we told the public, nobody believed us.
They argued that if they could hijack a plane, why would they loot a bank for such a small amount? But a bank in Borivali was looted. And we found the same numbered notes. It was hard work and a lot of luck; quite a lot of luck.
The latest problem is of fake currency, which is troubling the country, especially Bombay, the financial capital of the country. What measures are you taking?
It is a nationwide problem. The ISI is responsible. The currency may have been printed in Pakistan. The paper quality is excellent. The two people we arrested had links with Aftab Bakhi, who is Dawood Ibrahim's lieutenant in Dubai.
They have to take action at the central government level.
Fake currency detection machines are available for Rs 2,500. They should be installed in banks, financial institutions and shops. The police and intelligence machinery are working on arresting the printers and distributors. You cannot expect results overnight.
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