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RASHMI OBEROI | 23 FEBRUARY, 2015

Policing or Arm Twisting?

Indian Police power?


The word ‘police’ should instil in us a feeling of being protected and being safe. Unfortunately, in India it is quite the opposite. The minute the word comes into play; our minds conjure up images of someone untrustworthy, unreliable and daunting. Preserving law and order is far from reality and ensuring justice and legality in public places seems like a pipe dream. In all fairness, the need of the hour is a police system that we can trust and that can effectively carry out its responsibilities and duties that come with the job. This is one area that the new government at the centre needs to focus on immediately and urgently.

Many of us, who have had any sort of interactions with the ‘police’ or maybe even an altercation or brush with the law, have not had very pleasant experiences to talk of. In fact even brief exchanges leave you feeling cheated and you come away with a bitter taste in the mouth that lingers long afterwards. My personal experience in dealing with the police when I had an accident left me with not even a single iota of respect for them.

Firstly, they don’t help... In fact their primary motive is to extract the maximum amount of benefits/money from the victim. Secondly, they are more focussed on getting familiar with the accused so that their palms are greased considerably well in the days ahead. Thirdly, their focus here is not on catching the perpetrators or rather ensuring the justice system moves in the correct fashion but on trying to see how much they can extract for their personal gain. It is a gloomy scenario indeed.

My faithful cab driver tells me that very often he is accosted by the local police and even though he may not have broken any traffic rules or committed a violation, the policemen harass him unnecessarily for lifts and personal jaunts when he is on duty and naturally under pressure to reach his customer at the designated time required. On refusing, he is usually threatened by a ‘challan’ or bribe. My blood boils when I hear of such stories and it is but obvious that there are no strictures in place and there is no form of monitoring going on. The police have been given a free run and the laws of the land being put on the back burner.

For a simple background verification form that had to be stamped at a local police station, my domestic help was made to sit for a couple of hours while the Inspector in-charge had his tea and made idle chit chat with all and sundry. She being a feisty one herself walked up to him and asked why the delay and then realised that he wanted money just to stamp the paper. On being told, that he could speak to me and that I came from an army background, she was hastily let off.

On a recent drive to Panchkula from Delhi, I was aghast to see the ‘lal bati syndrome’ visibly rampant and still acting like the rulers of the land and openly flouting rules and regulations. I have no problems in making way for an ambulance or the fire brigade or a highway patrol car on the expressway but I am not going to allow rude and arrogant cops to push me off the road just so that some ‘so-called VIP’ is allowed to zoom past at breakneck speed. We all have places to go to...things to do. We refused to give way as did those driving behind us and we all continued to drive in our respective lanes without budging an inch as it was not only dangerous but also catastrophic to veer on the side of a highway that had large amounts of traffic plying at high speed on it. The anger on the cops sitting in the Pilot Gypsy was clearly seen as their hand gestures and facial expressions got harsher by the second! But who cared... Not I... Not anyone!

So what happens to the simple citizen of the land...who may not be rich and famous...who is just what you call an ordinary citizen...a regular Indian. Is this what he is subjected to on a daily basis? It appears so. And it was once asked of me if I would feel safe if I was alone with a cop till help arrived... My answer was a very prompt and emphatic ‘No.’ I guess they need to comprehend the words “guard, protect, defend and patrol” and add it in as their responsibilities to the country and its citizens.

The only place that I have seen a positive change and where there is responsible policing is Chandigarh... Hats off to them for not only being strict and ensuring that rules are followed and but also instilling the confidence factor. We need this transformation all over.

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