Uttar Pradesh police issued a 12-point advisory for people travelling through the state’s highways, barely a few weeks after robbers waylaid a Noida-based family and gang-raped a 35-year-old woman and her minor daughter.
The incident had outraged the country and put a question mark over the law and order scene in the poll-bound state, sparking a political slugfest between the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and opposition parties.
“We have prepared and rolled out the highway patrolling plan… If, at any place, we had one highway patrol, we have deployed an additional one...thorough checking is put in place at sensitive areas,” Daljit Singh, state additional director general (law & order), said on Tuesday.
On Sunday, UP police sent out the advisory through a tweet which said, “Important~ Please read & retweet the following precautions for a #safe journey (sic)”. The set of dos and don’ts was in Hindi.
Police warned travellers against stopping vehicles in case they are hit by any object, a modus operandi adopted by the highway robbers to stop the Noida-based family on NH-91 on the night of July 29.
Drivers have also been advised to remain alert to unexpected roadblocks like stones or fallen trees.
It asked travellers not to disclose their destinations at roadside dhabas (eateries) or shops and said stoppages should be only at the nearest police post or toll plaza if unidentified people warn about fuel leaks.
Uttar Pradesh has the longest network of highways among all states, according to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) data. National Crime Records Bureau’s data for 2014 show the state also accounts for the highest number of highway crimes — 80% of the 84,000 cases of dacoity and thefts on highways across the country were recorded in Uttar Pradesh.
“The roads and highways have become a happy hunting ground for criminals. The stretch where we got help up had no street lights. There must be many such incidents which families may not have reported due to social and other pressures. Patrolling must be intensified,” said a family member of the Bulandshahr rape victims.
Police also asked travellers to download the ‘UP Police CUG Caller’ app to access mobile numbers of any state police official. However, the victims in two major incidents, the Bulandshahr gang rape and the attack on BJP leader Brijpal Teotia in Ghaziabad, claim their calls to the police emergency number did not go through.
“The main issue is lack of professionalism, also priorities of the police have changed and are not public centric. There are manpower and resource constraints. Transfers, postings are strictly not based on merit. It is also seen that to open cases under pressure, the cops would book somebody and also make them confess,” said Prakash Singh, former IPS officer and ex-DGP.
“In our times, there were instances of road holdups, but criminals did not indulge in insulting women. If police is determined, keeping public interest in mind, they can surely secure highways and roads. Why can’t they go on highways as decoy? I am sure several gangs would be neutralised in some time,” he added.