By Praveen Dixit
Mumbai is a dream city to improve one’s prospects. Mumbai is the commercial and economical capital of India. It is recognised as an ‘engine of growth not only for Maharashtra but also for the entire country. It is known as a melting pot since migrants of all hues forget their primordial differences and work tirelessly for economic prosperity. With so many different avenues for economic activity, this megacity never sleeps.
The city is the home to many prestigious commercial activities, reputed legal, educational, and research institutes, as well as sensitive installations such as Western Naval headquarters and atomic power station. The sine qua non for all this prosperity is peace, tranquillity and dependable law and order situation.
Every day approximately seven million floating population travels in and out of the city through mass transport arrangements. Despite mounting pressures, the credit for the peaceful situation in the city needs to be given to relentless and dedicated efforts by law enforcement agencies as well as to the disciplined behaviour of common people and their spirit to overcome various hardships.
The population of the city is likely to grow in the days to come as masses not only from Maharashtra and India but also from other countries pour into Mumbai regularly. It is said, out of every incoming 100 persons, not more than 5% have the necessary skills to survive. The remaining may be forced to resort to illegal ways, besides creating encroachments.
On the one hand, family bonding is evaporating rapidly, while on the other hand, addictions are growing. As a result, an increasing number of children in conflict with laws are being detected for indulging in serious crimes including rapes, murders, robberies and thefts. Cyber crimes and economic offences are growing geometrically with the increasing penetration of the internet. Instances of atrocities against women, children, disabled persons and neglect of elderly persons are growing at a fast pace. Delay in adjudication and delivery of justice is resulting in emboldening of criminals.
Mumbai being commercial and economical capital, regular efforts are being made by enemy countries to disrupt communal harmony either through terrorist activities or by using sleeping cells through the radicalisation of youth. Pushing huge narcotics, smuggling weapons, hawala rackets and corruption are the instruments to further this goal.
Increasing unemployment, unequal distribution of means, attraction to luxury items, breaking of family ties and polarisation of conflicting religious philosophies are some of the factors that have the potential to create serious law and order problems in the days to come.
To tackle this alarming situation, the leadership of the police force is critically important. Interference in police postings by politicians must be minimised, to allow police to function professionally. Police officers need to be posted strictly on seniority and merit. They need to be persons with proven integrity and character. They must be transferred regularly after a stipulated period to avoid the creation of conflict of interests. At the same time, they need to be equipped with minimum facilities including regular training in new laws, types of crimes and related modus operandi, providing suitable weapons, vehicles, police stations and housing. Several police stations and the strength of the force need to be almost doubled to increase the visibility of policemen in the vicinity. The paltry strength of 3000 policemen for traffic regulation is grossly inadequate and requires to be augmented to at least 20000 policemen in the next five years. The proportionate number of courts and capacity of prisons also need to be increased.
Police also need to change their ways by adopting a pro-people attitude. For lodging complaints, the use of an online facility needs to be implemented with immediate effect. To prevent street crimes, CCTV networks and artificial intelligence should be utilised fully to register offences by police officers without waiting for private complainants.
Vacancies at all levels including women police need to be filled in on priority. Though 33% are supposed to be women police, hardly 10-11 % are available. Infrastructure for washrooms, feeding rooms, and restrooms for women police need to be provided on priority. Working at the police stations needs to be monitored by senior officers to avoid delays and corrupt practices.
Heavy police stations need to be manned by officers of the rank of ACP. The Mode of patrolling needs to be changed and innovative techniques including drones need to be implemented. A panel of forensic experts needs to be kept available through video calls to guide the investigating officers on the spot in serious crime situations. Continuous education of the public is critical to prevent the offences rather than subsequent detection and prosecution.
Police should co-opt experts from print and electronic media for outreach programs. Help should be taken in the investigation of cyber and economic offences from concerned experts. As witnessed recently, it is imperative to neutralise and counter rumours and fake videos/posts through social media which have the potential to create instantaneous riotous situations.
Increasing isolation among people, apathy towards neighbours, false sense of injustice and extremist ideas by a section of fanatics of a certain religion are being exploited by terrorist groups to radicalise youth and encourage them to assassinate persons opposing their ideology. Instead of reacting to crimes, police should anticipate the situations and bring together members of different communities to share their happiness as well as sorrows regularly.
Training of common people and involving them in practising precautions is the need of the hour to ensure adequate response to any untold situation and to maintain law and order in the days to come. Accepting this challenge, the implementation of disruptive and innovative technology through non-corrupt police leadership would certainly improve the law and order situation in the days to come.
(Author Praveen Dixit (IPS), is retired Director General of Police, Maharashtra)