Three ghastly incidents of public behaviour on Delhi roads in the recent past have raised some serious issues. A Delhi Traffic Police havildar hit a woman on a scooter with a brick in the posh Golf Links area. After a motorcycle hit a BMW in the up-market Select Citywalk mall in Saket, the owner of the luxury car, who claimed he was an ACP, whipped out a revolver and roughed up the motorcyclist. In another equally bizarre incident, in Maurice Nagar four young men driving a car (one of them posing as a sub inspector) with a Delhi Police sticker beat up a motorist who overtook their car. These incidents have sent shock waves among law-abiding citizens.
Is the heat wave sweeping Delhi taking a toll on tempers? Or is it a total lack of education and disregard for law and order? I think it is a combination of factors, which has brought us to this abysmally low level.
The average policeman lacks a sense of public service and is more focused on making most of the authority vested in him for personal gains. Police officers at higher levels are largely far removed from ground level policing realities. Given this, the selection of policemen to the department’s traffic wing, the most visible face of the police, needs an overall revision.
The issue should also be seen from the other side of the debate. The pay and perks of our policemen are far below the prevailing standards even in developing countries. Long and arduous duty hours, poor living conditions and public apathy further add to this alienation from the masses. Given this, is it not unrealistic to expect the average policeman to behave like the London Bobby, who is perhaps the highest-paid civil servant in England? If we want world-class policing, we should be willing to spend on it.
No amount of orientation courses for policemen will help if basic issues are not addressed. Training seldom succeeds in bringing about attitudinal changes, which are the determining factor.
Let us not leave maintaining law and order in our society only to the government. A lot of this responsibility lies with us citizens. It is also time for a greater introspection at the parental levels, and by teachers, especially at the primary and secondary school levels. Are we doing enough to make our children good citizens for this nation? Quo vadis Dilli? It is time to ponder.
Anil Chowdhry is former secretary, internal security, Union home ministry
The views expressed are personal