Every motorist who has had to pay a fine for a traffic violation knows the heartburn that comes from seeing policemen flouting road rules with impunity.
The tables are being turned in Haryana’s Rohtak.
The superintendent of police (SP) has asked city residents to report policemen breaking the law by sending in photographs and videos via WhatsApp. Evidence of errant cops is flowing in and Rohtak traffic police has issued about 100 challans, as fine notices are called, to embarrassed colleagues.
The superintendent of police of Rohtak, Haryana, has asked city residents to report policemen breaking the law by sending in photographs and videos via WhatsApp
The initiative is a brainchild of Rohtak SP Pankaj Nain, whose office first publicised it in newspapers mid-April. A month later, a few dozen of his junior colleagues were told to report at the Police Lines Ground. Unsuspecting police personnel trooping in were greeted with traffic police issuing challans. About 50 challans were issued that day — mostly for not wearing a helmet and the fine was Rs 100. The men in uniform were stunned.
Following that meeting, Nain decided to move to social media. He posted the WhatsApp number on the Rohtak Police Facebook page and encouraged people to send proof of policemen caught on the wrong foot. Nain assured citizens that he himself would monitor the said number and the complainant’s identity would stay a secret.
The news of the initiative quickly spread and photos and videos started trickling in.
A post shared on the Rohtak Police Facebook page on May 15 bears not only the photos but also the names and respective police station of two policemen who were caught riding their two-wheelers sans helmets. Both were duly served a challan.
Nain told FactorDaily that the erring policemen are called in and served challans in person. If a policeman cannot be identified owing to poor photo/video quality but the vehicle’s registration number is visible, a challan is sent via post. More than 100 challans have been served to men in uniform to date.
The SP’s message to his staff is clear: respect the law yourself before asking Rohtak residents to do so.
Falling in line
Deputy superintendent of police Ravinder Kumar told FactorDaily that since this initiative was launched, there has been a change in the mindset of his colleagues. “Once the photo is received by senior officials, it becomes an evidence and there is no scope of leniency,” he said.
Some weeks ago, 10-15 messages were coming in every day, which has reduced to four-five. This, Kumar concluded, shows policemen are mindful of the need to keep to the rules.
An assistant sub-inspector of traffic police, requesting anonymity, who often mans the local beat at a busy intersection, said he now looks out for uniform-clad men on bikes without helmets. “Senior police officials question even the traffic policeman on duty from where they get traffic violation photos as to how we missed a cop breaking a rule,” he said.
It’s early days but Rohtak residents love it. Sandeep Kumar, who has a computer hardware shop, learnt about this initiative in a amusing way. He was stopped by a traffic policeman in the main market area recently for riding helmetless. He called his uncle, who is a sub-inspector in Haryana police, to ask for help to put in a word with the policeman to avoid the fine. “My uncle told me that even he was issued a challan the previous week by the traffic police on duty for not wearing helmet,” he said.
Apart from traffic violations, Rohtak SP Pankaj Nain also gets other complaints about cops. A resident of the Gandhi Camp area had sent him a photo of policemen sitting outside the police chowki in their underwear in the evenings
Another civilian, Mohinder Singh, a Rohtak resident and a retiree who has lived abroad for years, lauded this initiative of the Rohtak police and said all developed countries have the same set of rules for policemen and civilians alike. But, the proof of the initiative will be if policemen don’t go back to their old ways when the initiative has run its course, he added.
Apart from traffic violations, Nain also gets other complaints about cops. A resident of the Gandhi Camp area had sent him a photo of policemen sitting outside the police chowki in their underwear in the evenings. Yes, it was hot and it was after duty hours, but they had no business lounging around in their jocks. The resident also complained that the said policemen sometimes would get drunk and bother the residents. A stern warning and things have been corrected, Naid said.
The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Sat Singh is a Rohtak based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.