When it comes to police preparedness on highways to check eventualities like the Bulandshahr road hold-up and gang rape, it would not be out of place for travellers to feel insecure and afraid.
A reality check by HT teams paints a grim picture. Policemen were seen patrolling in tempos, which at their maximum speed could touch 40km in Kanpur and Kanpur Dehat. Think about this vis-a-vis the Scorpio-bound criminals who looted a truck in Etawah on the national highway on Monday night.
In many places, policemen were caught napping on duty in Etawah -- home district of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav-- utterly negligent about their firearms, which were easily vulnerable to theft.
The HT team travelled in three different directions on the Kanpur-Allahabad highway, from Akbarpur in Kanpur Dehat till Unnao, and about 75km from Auraiya to Etawah.
In Kanpur, although policemen were found awake on the highway to Maharajpur that borders Fatehpur district, they were equipped with 303 rifles and had only a tempo to patrol the sensitive highway. They were not connected to the control room through wireless communication either.
The tempo was especially arranged at the local level. Its driver, who didn’t want to be named, said his employer was assured that the cost of diesel would be borne by the force.
On the NH 2 towards Naubasta, Sachendi and Akbarpur, the stretch was completely unprotected. Not a single policeman was seen during the 70-km-long drive. This, despite the orders for heightened patrolling on the highways after what happened in Bulandshahr.
Highways in the state of UP are as vulnerable to crime as its residents. Lack of effective police patrol and lax laws make them a traveller’s nightmare.
Take the case of NH-2, the highway connecting Delhi with Varanasi. Those not in the know call this the road to prosperity. Considered the lifeline of trade and commerce, this highway has played an important role in the development of the state.
But not many know that the UP police have marked NH-2 as unsafe, because this where a traveller can be waylaid, looted, kidnapped, raped and even murdered.
And this is not the case with NH-2 alone. Three other national highways in the state – NH- 24 which connects Ghaziabad with Lucknow, NH- 91 linking Delhi and Kanpur and NH -93 connecting Agra and Bareilly – also have the dubious distinction of being unsafe for travellers.
The family that became victims to the brutality of a tribal gang in Bulandshahr last Friday was travelling on NH-91.
“Criminal activities are also reported on other highways but maximum cases of road hold-ups and loot have been reported from these four national highways,” said IG (law and order) Hari Ram Sharma.
While 42 highways are maintained by NHAI, 83 state highways are managed by UPSHA.
“The IGs, DIGs and SPs of the districts through which these four highways pass have been asked to carry out regular patrolling. The officers have also been asked to set up barriers, check posts and pickets,” says IG (law and order) Hari Ram Sharma. The state police have also decided to seek help from the officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and UP State Highway Authority (UPSHA) for safe movement of travellers.
It has been decided that two cops of sub-inspector rank will be deployed with a police team at toll plazas on the highways to check suspicious vehicles.