Mumbai accounts for 6.9 per cent of total crime in the country while New Delhi’s share is 9.9 per cent. Is Mumbai fast catching up with New Delhi?
I do not agree with this perception. In fact, a list prepared by the Union government last year shows that as far as the incidence of cognizable offences (which are serious in nature) go, Mumbai ranks 36. The list names 53 cities.
The law and order situation in Mumbai is under control despite the increasing population though the number of crimes against women has gone up. We have created greater awareness among women through mahila melawas or women’s rallies. Now more women are coming forward to lodge complaints. We have also made six short films on women’s rights, which are being screened at all cinemas.
Today’s molester could be tomorrow’s rapist. Hence I have given strict instructions to register all complaints from women. Earlier, because of social stigma and other reasons women hesitated to file complaints. Now many are coming forward and lodging complaints. We have created the ICE (In Case of Emergency) concept, which was launched by Amitabh Bachchan. The idea was to speed up police response to distress calls from women.
Its close to a year since you took over as commissioner, what are your three big ticket achievements?
Today, the police are much closer to citizens than before. The level of trust in police has increased. I achieved this by addressing a series of meetings with citizens. I instructed all police officers, including additional commissioners and deputy commissioners, to hold Grievances Redressal Day every Saturday. Any citizen can walk into these meetings and inform senior officers about their problems.
The officers are expected to solve the problem on a top priority basis. The second achievement is the launching of the Social Media Laboratory (SML), which keeps a close watch on all the things said and done in the virtual world. Whatever is in the public domain, which is 90 per cent of all that is in the virtual world, immediately comes to the notice of the SML, which has a dedicated team of police officers and men specially trained for the purpose.
Twice a day the SML sends me reports about their findings. This 0e-watch enables us to pro-actively nip mischief in the bud. Special emphasis is made on terror-related postings. The third achievement was the creation of anti-terror cells in each police station. Each cell comprises of an officer and four men who are trained to collect terror-related intelligence. They work in close coordination with the Special Branch of the CID.
Mumbai police has traditionally been trained to handle law and order problems and not terrorist violence. This became apparent on 26/11. Have you done anything to change the situation? The special branch continues to be viewed as a ‘side posting’ where no money is to be made.
We have reoriented the approach of the Special Branch, which is tasked with intelligence gathering. Of course, there is scope for making this vital branch more effective. As for handling terror situations, we are much better prepared now than before 26/11.
We have the Quick Response Teams (QRTs), which are trained to instantly respond to any threat. We have also created Force 1, which is adequately equipped to counter the use of sophisticated weapons. We have identified 743 likely targets in the metropolis on which terrorists may zero in. All the stakeholders in the vicinity of these targets have been sensitised to possible terror attacks.
The concept of Mumbai Kavach has been introduced and we have involved thousands of students and youths in spreading security consciousness. On any given day, at least two mock drills are conducted. We hope 26/11 is never repeated. But I assure the citizens that we are much better prepared now.
The poor rate of conviction (a mere 15 per cent) is a highly worrisome trend. Who is to be blamed for this dangerous statistic?
It is a complex phenomenon, which cannot be tackled by the police department alone. I agree that we have to build up a good case if we are to succeed in the courts. The problem is that public prosecutors are not under our control since 1995. They should be made accountable to us.
Many of the public prosecutors are political appointees and are not competent. We have succeeded in obtaining convictions in those cases where we have appointed special prosecutors. Of course, I agree that our investigation also has to improve. But we are helpless when it comes to judicial delays. A criminal case can take up to 10 to 12 years and by that time the case becomes weak.
As per the CrPC once the magistrate calls witnesses then it becomes mandatory to conduct the trial on a day to day basis. This is not happening, and is a violation of law. Also, we need fast track courts for expeditious trial on cases of serious crimes.
Once upon a time, Mumbai was known all over the country for its traffic discipline. Now that is a thing of the past. The fear of traffic cops has almost vanished. Traffic violations have made a mess of the transport network. What are you doing about this?
I do not agree that the fear of the traffic cop is not there anymore. Despite the fact that the traffic police has only 2,700 personnel for a city with a massive vehicle population, they are doing a good job.
They collected Rs9 crore by way of fines this year. We need at least 800 more personnel. We now have 70,000 student Road Safety Patrol volunteers. The main reason for the breakdown in discipline is the extremely low rate of fines, which are about Rs100 to Rs200. I am of the firm opinion that the minimum fine for even the most minor offence should be Rs1,000. We can’t work under the pressure of lobbies of cabbies, autorickshawmen etc.
Heavy fines should be imposed. Also, the traffic signals, which are currently maintained by the BMC, should be brought under our purview. Of course, a major reason for the traffic snarls is the pathetic condition of roads.
The state government is bent upon imposing a ban on dance bars despite losing the case in the Supreme Court. Do you think it is the job of the police to down shutters of bars?
I cannot have a personal opinion on this issue. We have to implement whatever law is introduced by the government. But I agree that it is not the job of policemen to close down business establishments.
The high levels of corruption in the force is a serious issue impacting the policing of Mumbai. Is anything being done about this?
I agree that the moral fibre needs to be strengthened. Overwork and poor pay scales cannot be justification for accepting bribes.
The need is for quick punishment of offenders. We need fast track courts to try corrupt personnel. I also appeal to citizens to give me information on corruption and I will take action. There should be zero tolerance to corruption.