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New Year advice for Delhi Police: let the traffic flow

Delhi Police should remove the ridiculous barriers they periodically place on the Capital’s roads— nakabandi, as they call it— because they end up annoying the very people the police seek to please or, at least, reassure. Karan Thapar writes.

columns Updated: Jan 04, 2014 22:31 IST
Karan Thapar
Karan Thapar
Hindustan Times
Delhi police,traffic,crime

Let me start the New Year with a little tongue-in-cheek and utterly gratuitous advice for the Delhi Police. The barriers they periodically place on the Capital’s roads — nakabandi, as they call it — are not just an immense irritation for all of us but also a complete waste of their own time. What’s worse, I can’t believe the Delhi Police don’t know this.

First, observe closely the situation at the next barrier you confront.

A silly zig zag is created by placing yellow metal barriers at a busy traffic intersection. A dense traffic jam builds up as cars and trucks painfully try to negotiate this obstruction. Tempers flare. Occasionally vehicles stall. And everyone is delayed.

Now, what are the police doing whilst this happens? Slouching somewhere out of sight, puffing on bidis or, possibly, if it’s a cold night, sipping tea. Often, they can be seen chatting to each other. Frequently, they do not even observe the chaos they have created.

So what’s the point of it all? If you look at the message painted on the barriers — and it’s the sort of cute nonsense typical of India’s bureaucrats and rulers — it seems to be an attempt to detect and catch criminals. It reads: "True, we slow you down, but we try not to let criminals slip away."

But do you believe these barriers have ever led to the catching a criminal? I’d be very surprised if the answer is yes.

Why do I say so? Because criminals don’t sit in cars, slowly and painfully negotiating police barriers, waiting to be caught. They meticulously avoid such encounters. More importantly, the police couldn’t detect a criminal inside a car even if he or she jumped out and kissed them on the lips! And then possibly they might come to a very different conclusion.

Indeed, I have absolutely no doubt in declaring this is not how you catch terrorists. Whilst the inconvenience it causes is not justified if all you nab is pickpockets or drunk drivers!

Actually, I suspect this is just an elaborate but deeply mistaken charade to convince the citizenry of Delhi that their police are guarding their security. It’s a way of saying ‘Look, we are constantly on the vigil!’. But it is, to be honest, simply hoodwinking people. Nothing more.

So my advice to the Delhi Police as 2014 gets underway — and I mean it good naturedly even if I put it mockingly — is let the traffic flow. Remove these ridiculous barriers because they do not convince anyone. Instead, you end up annoying the very people you seek to please or, at least, reassure.

I can’t think of a single major metropolis where anything similar happens. Not New York. Nor Paris. And certainly not London. It simply wouldn’t be tolerated by the residents of those cities which is why the Met, the NYPD or the Surete would not seek to ‘fool’ them with such patently ill-thought out displays.

Not being a policeman I can’t say what are better ways of protecting the city. Only experts could give that advice. But as a simple honest layman I can tell — and so can anyone else with a dash of common sense — that nakabandi-style blocking of traffic is not one of them.

But will the Delhi Police take my advice? I hope so but, if I’m realistic, I doubt it.

Yet that doesn’t deter me from wishing them a very Happy New Year — and to all of you as well.

Views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Jan 04, 2014 22:21 IST