“We live in constant fear. We never know if our husbands will return home alive,” said Sharda Gaikwad, the wife of a traffic police constable who lives at Worli police lines. Gaikwad said she has been especially worried since August 23, when traffic constable Vilas Shinde was brutally assaulted by two brothers at a petrol pump in Khar.
The assault on Shinde has highlighted the issue of traffic policemen’s safety and served as a reminder of the risks they face in the line of duty.
From January to August this year, 28 traffic policemen were assaulted in Mumbai. Last year, 49 traffic policemen were attacked, while there were 33 assaults on traffic cops in 2014.
To help them better deal with the risks, the Mumbai traffic police have enrolled their constables in a self-defence programme. So far, 2,780 of the city’s 3,200 constables have received training.
Apart from self-defence training, constables attend training sessions at Byculla as part of their induction course to help them communicate better with the public and not lose their cool.
However, many constables’ wives say their husbands need more than this.
“When a traffic constable issues a challan, the arrogant motorist throws Rs 100 in his face. They treat constables as if they are lesser humans. The value of uniform is lost and policemen are not feared,” said Gaikwad.
“Give them guns or at least a lathi, so that motorists will not dare to raise their hands on them,” Gaikwad added.
Senior officials, however, are not in favour of arming traffic constables as it would get in the way of their primary job – managing traffic.
“We cannot expect constables to carry sticks. They already carry walkie-talkies and challan receipts and have to direct traffic. The training given to them is to be used in hostile situations,” said Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police, traffic.
To further reduce the danger, the department is taking steps to minimise traffic policemen’s interaction with the public. An e-challan system will be in place in a few months and will go some way towards ensuring this. “Using technology to enforce traffic laws is a step towards minimising confrontations between the traffic police and the public,” a senior officer said.