Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sheila Dixit: Dont blame the people of Delhi for crime. Blame the cops....

The murder of a DU student Radhika Tanwar in Delhi a couple of days back was tragic indeed. On the one hand, it has reinforced the stereotype that Delhi is the most unsafe city for women in the country. On the other hand, it has raised issues about citizens not being concerned with crime and not aiding the cops in solving the crime. The Delhi CM yesterday blamed the people of Delhi for not co-operating with the police, but I beg to differ with her.

It’s very easy for the CM to say that the people of Delhi are insensitive and take an “it wasn’t me; Why should I care” attitude to such incidents. But I think it’s she who is being insensitive by accusing her people in this manner. She obviously lives in a cocooned world of silk and satin and probably never has to deal with a corrupt and abrasive police department. She clearly must never have visited a cop station and interacted with a bunch of MCPs.....She’s obviously never had to file an FIR; to wait for hours before a cop turns up to write down an FIR; to deal with a copy who only speaks in Marathi (in Bombay); not even understood the problems that people face in their interactions with the police. I’m sorry but I think it is she who is insensitive; not the people of Delhi.

And this in a city which perhaps has the most suave cops anywhere in India. When I see the Police Commissioner of Delhi, I feel good that we are finally moving towards having more gentle; more modern and more educated least in the bigger cities. But the fact is that cops down the line remain as rude and abrasive as they always have been. They have not been able to convince the people that they mean good. That they are there for their protection. That if they did identify anyone, they would have the ability and capability to protect them. As one who watches CSI shows religiously, I invariable (and perhaps unfairly) start comparing and contrasting our police system with theirs. And I am ashamed by what I see all around. It’s not like there are no police problems in the West, but to a very large extent, the cops there inspire confidence in the locals. That’s simply not the case in Delhi, or anywhere else in the country.

The recent handling of the Aarushi case also highlighted the ham-handed manner in which cops work in India. On the day of the murder, the cops did not even seal off the crime scene. Apparently, hundreds of journalists and even local residents were merrily tromping on the evidence in the house. The cops did not even bother to protect the evidence. And this in NOIDA....really a part of Delhi....but which unfortunately belongs to the goon state of UP. Why can’t the UP government be a little sensitive and place its more elite and sophisticated officers in a modern city like Noida (Delhi)?

I was recently reading a story in some international newspaper that said that Indian cops did not even understand what forensics meant. Our ability to lift and process evidence is primeval. The world has moved so far ahead in forensics technology but we are a hundred years behind. Why has the government not focused its resources and energy on building competencies in the police department? Why haven’t they allocated budgets for better equipment and devices to be procured? All that our cops know in the form of investigation is grabbing some poor souls from the street and beating the hell out of them. This is the only form of interrogation they know. Such stories are intentionally leaked out by them and are intended to work as deterrents to others who might be thinking of crime. What kind of civil society uses methods like these?

Then the corruption. The police department is one of the most corrupt parts of government. Each one of us has had a brush with bribing traffic cops for small violations. I am not saying that we citizens are not responsible for traffic violations; we are but my limited point is that cops are the easiest ones to bribe. And why won’t they take bribes? They sweat it out on the streets for long hours in extreme heat or bitter cold and take home a measly Rs 10-12,000 a month? What can you do with a salary like this in a city like Delhi? Why can’t we pay them better? Why cant we have a leaner but meaner force? Corruption in police goes right to the top. So there are umpteen cases of how someone or the other manipulated the investigation to suit his or her needs by paying of the cops. Media also has played a very partisan role in exposing police corruption and inefficiencies. There are several instances when the media has just turned a blind eye to specific crime cases. Instances which did not have much “readership” or “viewership” potential. All of this is a classic concoction for the public not to trust the police.

The real truth is that no one wants to ever engage with the cops. One prays that one never has to ever engage with the cops. Having to deal with the cops is like having the worst nightmare possible. The most dreadful thought. Sheila Dixit should know this. She should not blame the people of Delhi.....who are amongst the most educated and brave in the country. She should blame her ilk of politicians. And when I name Sheila Dixit, I am obviously not talking only of her; I am including leaders of all political parties. Or she should blame the cops who conduct themselves in a crass and abrasive manner. All of them need to think about how they can earn our trust. And not how they can blame us.

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