The Simhastha fair will host thousands of devotees and pilgrims from April 22, but what has the Ujjain police on their toes is an influx of criminals out to make easy money during the mega event.
Intelligence officers said hundreds of tricksters and swindlers, some of them women and children, were expected to descend on the temple town.
A delegation of UP police officers with experience in handling a similar situation during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad will be arriving in Ujjain in the next few days to help the local police with security arrangements for the upcoming fair.
Senior police officers said criminals, posing as sadhus, beggars or even policemen, usually make their way into Ujjain from Maharashtra and other parts of Madhya Pradesh. Dozens of such gangs operate in the two states, including Uchakka, Banauta, Kalvadda and Ghantichor gangs in Maharashtra and Pardi, Irani, Kanjars and Kadia Sansi gangs in the state.
“We have asked senior officers of Maharashtra to provide us a list of these gangs and (their) identified members with photographs. Police are also scanning details of each and every gang of Madhya Pradesh and we hope to contain...incidents (of cheating),” said DIG (Ujjain) Rakesh Gupta.
Photographs of these known criminals will be uploaded into a database that will scan faces in the crowd during the event.
“We have software that will match these photographs with the stored photographs of the thugs. And if any resemblance is found on one or more criteria, it would trigger an automatic alarm,” said Gupta.
In addition to CCTV cameras at two dozen locations across the fair venue, automatic number plate recognition cameras will also be set up on all roads leading to Ujjain.
A police officer posted in the Malwa region said that criminal elements were aware of the various tactics used by the police to catch them, even using disguises to avoid detection.
“They book their two-wheelers from a train to some other station and then move through the village roads. It will be difficult to contain such crimes and the police need proper intelligence inputs to nab them,” said the officer.
Gangs and their modus operandi
Kadia Sansi gangs (mainly from Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh) The whole family, including women and children, works on a target for days to dupe them
Irani gangs (several parts of western Madhya Pradesh) Pose as police or CBI officers and usually target elderly women
Maharashtra gangs Trick people in a crowd
Pardi gangs (many parts of MP and Maharashtra) Mainly engaged into loot and theft; they seldom carry weapons and work in groups, which often include women
Kanjars (MP) Bike lifting
Kid gangs from the South A few gangs of children involved in pick-pocketing
Banwariya gangs (UP and some parts of MP) Work in groups and may even resort to violence