Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Policing Styles

I finally took up reading Vikas Swarup's Q & A. This is not about the book. I will write about it once I finish it. The author says at one point that arrests in Dharavi are as common as pickpockets on the local train. It's obviously not a good thing for either of them to be common, is it? I don't know about the local trains in Mumbai but I certainly know about the local buses in Delhi. I've been pick pocketed twice myself, in the six years I spent at the University. Once it was my wallet, which, very luckily for me, contained only money, no IDs. My friend who was with me was not that lucky. She was running around the next day lodging FIRs for her college ID and her bus pass and then getting new ones made. The other time it was my cellphone. My first phone, which I'd bought with my saved up pocket money and birthday money. It felt really bad that time round.

I've had encounters with cops in Delhi, for registering an FIR for my phone (The Idea folks need a copy before they'll let you have a new SIM card.), for skipping a red light, for being in a car with a friend skipping a red light. I am sorry to say that I never got the feeling that the cops are out there to actually do something for the citizens. Most of them went easy on me because I was a girl, and I was a Jat and so were they, but that's not my point. My point is that they didn't seem genuinely concerned about the traffic conditions or the crime rates, but mostly about what was in it for them.

My only encounter with a cop here was my road test for my license. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure what he would be like, but he turned out to be a rather nice guy. I'm not saying that all Indian cops are bad guys and all American policeman are good guys, but I'm just saying that the average patrol guy behaves differently in these two countries. The whole system works differently. If you get a ticket which you don't think you deserve, you can contest it in court, and my husband has actually done it and won the case. But if you do actually get the ticket, it goes on to your permanent record and your driver's insurance rate changes accordingly. So the total cost of a ticket adds up to about the cost of groceries for one person for a little over a year. Such regulations ensure that people are afraid of breaking the rules. I think Delhi could do very well with a few such rules.


Akash said...

I've had encounters with Delhi cops and I found them really nice. (I'm not talking about traffic hawaldaars but actual inspectors at a police station). And the most amusing part was that when we had a tea together at a tea stall after the formalities and I offered to pay, they didn't allow me to pay...

Bhavya said...

Wow! That's good to know