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Challenge to keep Delhi’s underbelly sane

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By Sidharth Mishra

Sometimes in the late 1990s a very enterprising Deputy Commissioner of Police of the North East district had conducted a survey on the social factors for the high rate of crime in the district. North-East district, in the pre-Metro days, was used to be most backward area consisting mostly of the shanty colonies.

The area was also known to be communally sensitive and on many occasions petty crimes led to communal flare ups. The survey carried out at the behest of the DCP showed a particular trend. Most of the crimes of snatching, loot and scuffle, sometimes catastrophic, happened between 7 pm and 9 pm.

This was the time when the wage earning residents of the shanty colonies returned home from work, in most of the cases carrying days’ earnings in cash. The area during this period also witnessed power cuts regularly allowing the crime to be committed, using the police lexicon, under the cover of darkness.

The enterprising DCP managed to persuade the local officials of then Delhi Vidyut Board to defer load-shedding hour to later in the night, when the people were largely at home. This yielded results as the cases of crime came down. During the late night power cuts, he organized motor-cycle patrolling in groups, which had salutary effect.

The purpose of mentioning this case study is to put forth the point that as we move outwards from the nerve centre of New Delhi, the social character of the national Capital territory changes. From the overtly regulated zones of Lutyens and South Delhi colonies to the wild outer Delhi areas bordering Haryana and also parts of trans-Yamuna continue to be lawless not just in the matters of crime but also social and government regulations.

These areas are home to what’s called the unauthorized colonies. The unregulated habitats, which brought a lot of money to the local landholders. They, however, failed to bring the culture of education and social etiquettes in these areas. The fight for land grabs made these areas the battle ground of gang wars.

These wars did not remain just the turf battles between the gangs but also proved to be the progenitor of ancillary crime syndicates which came to operate in these areas. The Kanjhawala incident has to be seen in the context of this background.

The 20-year-old victim Anjali was killed in the early hours of the New Year after her scooter was hit by a car, which dragged her for about 12 kilometres. Her bruised and battered body was found on the road in Kanjhawala. Not just the ruthlessness but the rawness of the crime is enough send shivers down anybody’s spine.

Despite the claims of Delhi being most surveyed city through the CCTV cameras and presence of constabulary is largely limited to the upmarket areas. Development in true sense is quite a distance away from these outlying colonies. Government has done its bit by giving huge subsidies on electricity bills, culling out ground water without much restrictions and saving these habitats from civic taxes which their regulated status would have brought.

In the name of New Year celebrations, hooliganism was once focused around city centres like the Connaught Place but over a period of time it has spread to various part of the Capital with alcohol and drugs forming major consumption for revelries.  No wonder under the influence of such intoxicants such horrors as dragging of Anjali for 12 kilometres taken place. A mere police action or blame game would not suffice. Town planners need to put their heads together keep city sane.

(First Published in The New Indian Express)  


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