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Remembering a safe Capital

This time two years ago - for almost an entire fortnight - the Capital was in so many pairs of 'safe hands' that it seemed to have metamorphosed into a heavily-guarded island of prosperity almost overnight. Jatin Anand and Subhendu Ray report.

delhi Updated: Oct 10, 2012 02:23 IST

This time two years ago - for almost an entire fortnight - the Capital was in so many pairs of 'safe hands' that it seemed to have metamorphosed into a heavily-guarded island of prosperity almost overnight.

The sense of security that both visiting athletes and dignitaries of the Commonweath Games as well as Delhiites experienced was palpable.

However, there are some dreams such as a single-platform communication system - the ambitious TETRA that is still on a sticky wicket, enforcement of road discipline thanks to the blue-coloured games lane and adherence to 'proper' law and order round the clock, which are now merely components of the legacy of the games gone by.

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"One of the main reasons was the visibility of security personnel, drawn from several forces in large contingents, and the meticulous deployment programme," said a senior Delhi Police officer associated with security arrangements during the Games.

According to police figures, close to 180 companies - between 13,000 and 15,000 armed men and women from the state police forces of Delhi, Nagaland, AP and Tamil Nadu were among personnel drawn from central paramilitary forces such as the CISF, CRPF and RAF - were deployed between October 3 and 14.

But there were several flipsides to police logic employed at the time. When Athens had played host to the Commonwealth, only the Greek capital's stray dogs had been shown the door. In Delhi, humans paid the price.

Instances of hundreds, if not thousands, of labourers and their families being asked to vacate the vicinity of the same venues they had built with their very hands almost immediately after the construction was complete were reported.

The police, however, maintained the step was inevitable given the magnitude of the event.

On the crime front, two years down the line and with 730 cases of snatching, 8,220 cases of motor vehicle theft and 308 cases of murder having been registered till July 31, things are certainly worse than the Games fortnight.

A recent Delhi Police survey revealed at least 1,528 areas have transformed into crime hot spots.

When it comes to city, however, the past two years saw a sea change in the way Delhiites commute. The sporting extravaganza has left behind the legacy of world class traffic management on city roads.

Case Studies

Commonwealth games period was the best
Snigdha Banerjee

Twenty-five-year-old Snigdha Banerjee says she felt safe when the city roads were full of policemen and Delhiites turned into law-abiding citizens during the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

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When she was a child, she had witnessed a major accident at ITO that left three people dead. The incident instilled a deep fear in her mind.

"For many months after that, I feared going out and commuting on busy city roads. My cousin narrowly escaped an accident involving his two-wheeler and a car few months before the Games," said the 25-year-old, who recently shifted to Mumbai for further studies.

She says the Commonwealth Games and the security apparatus for it helped her overcome her fear of Delhi roads. It was during the three-week Games, she said, that she did not see even a single road accident.

"But traffic management on city roads has once again gone for a toss, though it is still much better than in Mumbai," Snigdha said.

That sense of security is missing now
Vikas Tripathi
The last time Vikas Tripathi broached the topic of a midnight stroll with his wife was two years ago.

Not used to seeing so many policemen in his locality beyond 11pm until the Commonwealth Games, Tripathi says that secure feeling has gone now.

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"At first, it did feel a bit strange. I mean, there were police officers or paramilitary personnel everywhere. What made us more confident as a family was that there was continuity in this sense of security. It was something we'd never experienced before," he said.

That, however, was two years ago. And, though there have been some improvements, Tripathi admitted a sense of security is painfully conspicuous by its absence.

"What is worrying is that the situation is back to square one: incidents of snatching and burglary have become routine again," he said.

"The police pulled off a commendable job during the Commonwealth Games; it would have been wonderful if they had continued with it. If not for anything else, but for the sake of a good night's sleep that average citizens like my family and I need."

Grill Session

Need heftier fines for violations
Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner Of Police (traffic)

Delhi saw world-class traffic management during the Commonwealth Games. Why can't it be repeated?
With the existing resources, it is impossible to ensure good traffic management. But there has been major improvement in the past two years - 20% decline in fatal accidents and 40% fall in cases of drunken driving

Is there any initiative whose effect still holds?
Our venture into popular social networking site Facebook has made our job much easier and improved efficiency. The social media page acts as virtual policemen through which we have prosecuted hundreds of violators, including cops.

What can make Delhi roads safe?
As a special case, we had imposed Rs 2,000 fine for lane jumping during the Games which had largely restrained motorists. Let the government make the fine structure heftier and provide technological support and I will ensure global standard in traffic management in the city and safer roads.

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Courtesy has become a habit now
Dharmendra Kumar, Special Commissioner of Police (law and order)

Why can't there be heavy deployment of police to make citizens feel safe as done during the Games?
There were around 200 companies from a nationwide pool of central paramilitary forces posted in the city at the time. So much deployment on a normal basis is not only unviable tactically, but even financially.

Was the exodus of beggars and drug addicts and, in some instances, labourers in the name of security necessary?
We didn't throw anybody out. The only logical explanation is that the magnitude of deployment of police and paramilitary personnel seems to have encouraged them to stay away temporarily.

The Games helped Delhiites see a particular facet of the police that is seldom visible. They were courteous, helpful and kind. Why couldn't at least these continue?
I don't agree. A dedication to discipline and a rejection of the 'Chalta Hai' attitude percolated down the ranks. Courtesy and accessibility have now become force of habit for our boys.