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Exclusive interview with a Cop- From Traffic Police to Police: Their Side of the Story

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Special report and interview by Shruthi Venukumar and Shivangi Mittal:

(The image used is symbolic in nature and not of the police men interviewed. )

Location: Mandir Lane, New Delhi. It is the meeting place of four routes leading to Rajinder Nagar, Gol Market, Karol Bagh and Chanakya Puri. Traffic flows thick and fast here. From the top of the roundabout at the convergence of these routes, every mean machine blazing past the scorching streets looks fast and furious, even on a Sunday when this interview was taken.

Every now and then, cars and bikes would stop at the traffic police’s station asking for directions; after all it’s a mind-boggling maze. Lining every route are newly erected swell walls and footpaths, the run up to the Commonwealth Games. Youth Ki Awaaz Production ManagerShruthi Venukumar and Cinematographer- Shivangi Mittal scoot over to the stationed officers and have a tête-à-tête. After the initial refusal to come on camera and reluctance to allow using their names in print, candour follows. In time, the conversation drifts away to encompass the general police force too.

Shruthi Venukumar: There seems to be no let-up in the volume of vehicular traffic here, even on a weekend.

Officer: You should see the traffic on weekdays; especially rush hours. What we see today is only a fraction of the traffic on a busy day.

SV: The confluence of four routes; must be a tough job handling mishaps.

Officer: This is not an accident-prone area.

SV: Hats off to you, Sir. How tough is it to keep traffic going smooth here?

Officer: (pointing at a traffic signal light) Did you notice that? Those lights don’t work. In the absence of electronic guides, vehicles tend to confuse and poor judgment can result in accidents. This is where traffic policemen come into the picture. We act as guides and manual traffic directors.

SV: What’s the most common type of traffic gaffes that happen here?

Officer: Over-speeding. The current limit is 50 km/hr. The new raised speed regulations (80 km/hr) are yet to be implemented. Personally, 50 km/hr is an unrealistic limit that tends to encourage flouting it leading to disregard for rules.

SV: We see a lot of over-crowded jam-packed buses ferrying on almost every route in Delhi. As we know, the maximum limit allowable is the maximum seating capacity of the bus plus 6 passengers. Don’t you think fining a handful of over-crowded buses would curb this practice and make errant buses fall in line?

Officer: That is a very good question. But Delhi faces a shortage of public transport buses. If buses run only to their capacity, it will inconvenience the general public. Auto-drivers and rickshaws would have a free run unscrupulously over-charging passengers. Again, police will have to take the blame and will be accused of apathy to the problems of the people.

Shivangi Mittal: Auto drivers have a history of over-charging. Do you receive complaints?

Officer: Yes. There are many reported cases of over-charging by autos. We intercept such autos and bring them to book. But sometimes the public does not co-operate. The front lanes of a popular girls’ college in Chanakya Puri used to be beelined with autos ferrying students from the gates of the college to the nearest bus stop. Over time, the auto drivers realized their indispensability as the bus stop was quite a distance from the college and began to over-charge. The traffic police stationed there impounded blatant flouters but the practice had to be discontinued. Why? Because the girls complained being harassed by the lack of autos and painted traffic police as the bad guys. Such incidents provide indirect immunity to deviant autos.

Secondly, I have noticed that there is a general lack of civic sense in Delhiites. Certain areas in Delhi, eg: in Connaught Place, are no entry zones for autos. But passengers themselves press auto drivers to flout rules and operate in those restricted areas. Again, a case of indirect immunity. You won’t find this kind of attitude in Mumbai and other metros.

SM: Maybe proper policing is the answer …

Officer: At every 6 ½ Km, a traffic policeman is posted. It is very difficult to keep an eye on everything that happens on this stretch.

SM: (nodding) Yes, people resort to various tricks to avert the attention of the police. There are motorists who tuck cell phones in their helmets to go undetected.

Officer: (smiles cynically) We don’t have an equipment yet to mine out hidden live cell phones from underneath helmets.

SV: Why not deploy more officials?

Officer: That is under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). For some reason, MHA seems to think the present force strength would suffice.

SV: Among the public, there is a general deficiency of confidence in the police.

Officer: In our country, policing is made out to be a dirty business. You often hear mothers snuffing out their two year old’s cries for chocolate with a, “Chup ho jao, warna police uncle jail mein bandh kar denge.” (Keep quiet else the police is going to lock you up.) This instills in the mind of the young child a fear for the police and it carries into adolescence and adulthood. For every corrupt police official, there are a hundred honest ones.

We have a 12-hour duty day, often stretching into overtime. In case of accidents, it is the police who rush victims to the hospital. Some accident sites are so gruesome, you would faint. Not many among the general public have the time or energy or sympathetic eye to help out in such a scenario. If your car stalls in a ditch on a rainy day, it is the police that roll up their trousers legs to help out, not passers-by. People who have a good experience with the police have a favorable opinion of us. There is this accident victim who almost had an eye gorged out. He was rushed to the nearest hospital. Timely medical care saved his eye and today he cannot stop praising the force.

Madam, your college is situated in the embassy area. Beautiful safe place right? When do you reach home? By 5 p.m? It’s another story after 9 p.m. Had it not been for police patrolling in the lanes near your college after dark, there would be no count or account of the number of girls falling to the exploits of conceited moneybags youngsters biking down the streets.

Tough job you ask? Yes. We are often disconnected from our own children to see to the safety of others’ children. Often it is our women at home who single-handedly bring up the kids and look after the household. If the woman is not strong or understanding, the pressures of the job become much more difficult to handle.

SM: Does the police have roles that are unknown to laymen?

Officer: We are a developing country. In the developed world, people vote to bring to power parties that show the most promise in making the nation richer; parties that are the most competent in manipulating capitalistic market mechanisms. India votes for parties that promise to get its odd BPL population food, shelter and clothing. In such a scenario, the role of the police becomes instrumental in providing social welfare. Our role is not limited to checking crime. The examples that I just mentioned best describe the humanitarian aspect of policing.

SV: Thank you sir, for bringing to us your side of the travails. Would you like to give out a message to our readers?

Officer: Ours is a “yes sir” job. There’s no scope of negation. People must remember that our hands are tied. We work to carry out orders given to us from seniors. Those seniors further have bosses sitting in a hierarchy. At the end of one’s career, we’re often so disillusioned by the lack of real power that most just feel like giving up on the system. There are no such exigencies on the general public. A little civic sense, proactive public opinion, having faith in us and the courage to approach us with grievances will surely make it a lot safer world.

SV & SM: Thank you sir, for your time. Surely this interview will let people see what they often fail to.

We invite your suggestions and comments in the box below or at editor@youthkiawaaz.com. Feel free to tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz or catch us on Facebook at facebook.com/youthkiawaaz.

image courtesy: The Delhi Traffic Police official Facebook Page.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sadhogopal Ram

    This was the one side of the story.. but was a worthy one.

  2. Shruthi Venukumar

    Thank you Sir! Yes Sir, it is indeed one side of the story. To make a fair judgement, one needs both sides on the table. I have found that the other side of the story is very visible and vocal in any given microcosm of India. So we decided to bring to you the views of the uniformed side.

  3. Sadhogopal Ram

    Your attempt is worth appreciating .. but this ‘the uninformed side’s story’ .. though no matter how authentic and genuine with its share of sorrows and problems.. shouldn’t create any false image about the subjects discussed in it. As the officer quoted : “For every corrupt police official, there are a hundred honest ones.” is nothing but an myth created by them and advocates of them. I am not saying that everyone is corrupt.. or that everyone single one has to face the public criticism for the corrupt ones.. its just that.. stories as such.. sometimes creates false impression in society and the corrupt ones take the advantage of it.

    I am really glad that you guys brought the story of few good guys in the system.. but lets not get carried away in something which might give another chance to those in the system who are always ready looking for it.

  4. Shruthi Venukumar

    Sir, had the majority of policemen in the country been corrupt, ours would have been a lawless nation. I would not say that we have the lowest crime rate in the world or that all policemen have honesty ingrained in them. But just give it a thought – We’re more than a billion people in India. Had the chunk of the force been corrupt & unmotivated, would we have not seen unimaginable instances of crimes perpetrated by the apathy of the police … the measures of which would exceed what we are seeing today? One must be careful while taking in media reports. They could be exaggerated.

    I totally agree with you Sir, stories have the potential to influence public opinion and writers should use the power of the pen responsibly. A meaningful conclusion can only be reached upon when both sides of the argument are heard. We have stories galore of the wrong-doings of cops. Most may be true. But what about honest cops? Should we just club them with the corrupt ones with a wave of sweeping generalization? Don’t honest cops deserve a chance to air their own views? Wouldn’t not letting them speak up lead to a situation where “a false impression” is created in society? And that is why we decided to bring out the cops’ side of the story. If we deprive them their voice, they could very well get disillusioned with the general attitude of the people and honest ones may lose their only motivation to keep going on the right track.

    There are many officers in the force equipped with proud law degrees who gave it up to be cops because that is their idea of being closer in connection with the grassroot levels. Wouldn’t being a criminal lawyer have meant more moolah for them than donning the uniform? Had there not been a sizable number of honest cops for every corrupt cop, you and I would not be able to move about freely on the road without the fear of wrongful implication in false cases so that the cop could make a quick corrupt buck.

  5. Sadhogopal Ram

    Fair enough.. what you said is completely true and worth considering. Its just that.. I happen to be a mock spectator of hundreds of those wrong doings and crimes committed by the guys in system.. that I fail to see the good ones. I understand your views, your sentiments and you idea of equality in thought for the good guys… I do. It just that.. those incidents which I have seen.. doesn’t let me appreciate the goodness of good guys.

    But anyways,.. It was really an (as i said earlier) worthy story. And I appreciate what you both did.

    Thank you!

  6. Shruthi Venukumar

    Thank you, Sir! Again! Constructive criticism is what keeps Youth Ki Awaaz going. Looking forward to more from you 🙂

  7. Petrucci

    Just give them 100 bucks and you’ll out of any mess!

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