(This maxi-post is in multiple parts but carried on single page)
From the poorest family in a slum to the richest in mansions, all Indian families share a common practice; we clean our house every single day. There can be those rare days which are exceptions but we do sweep and mop the floor every single day. We do this routine in our offices too. This is one of the routines of our lives as with other hygiene ones. It’s one thing common between the rich and the poor. If we don’t, dust accumulates. If dust accumulates disease follows or possessions rot. As simple as that! Crime prevention is not very different. Keeping cities free of crime is a daily routine. And when crime does happen we expect justice will follow and swiftly. The recent incident of the Gangrape of a 23-year old woman and her death brought people out on to the streets. The response of the govt and police merely indicate that they aren’t following the daily routines. Lathi-charges, water-cannons, shutting down metro-rail, buses and barricades are all responses in a ‘contagion’. Although this Gangrape acted as a trigger people weren’t really out in anger for that alone. Delhizens are simply fed up to their necks with the frequent crimes in the city-state. This is a long story, in multiple parts, and not to do with the media alone.
The ‘moment of truth’ as I call it is when a guest or visitor first comes in contact with a city or a service. When a flight is cancelled or delayed beyond tolerance, irate passengers don’t call up the Chairman of the airline to scream at; do they? They usually crowd around the hapless check-in girl and give her a harrowing time (see image and also see video on Youtube). The poor girl has absolutely nothing to do with the aircraft, cancellation, delays or flights except checking you in. Yet, she is the one facing the brunt of public anger. She is the ‘window’ of the airline. She is the ‘moment of truth’, the first point of contact. For most visitors to Delhi that first moment of truth or point of contact is a Taxi or an Auto. The behaviour of some of them is quite uncivil and makes you feel unwelcome. To top it all they don’t run on meters even till this day; 65 years after independence. Isn’t it astonishing, that those who claim to be in charge of law and order, crime-prevention and justice haven’t managed to get taxis and autos run on simple meters? Why in the world should Delhi airport have a system of ‘prepaid’ fares for yellow taxis which should just flag down their meters? This is true for all metros with the exception of Mumbai and for most other large cities in India. Lately, private taxis run on meters and even issue receipts. Crime doesn’t start with tragic rape and murder cases. It starts with failure in daily house-keeping.
As frequent as eve-teasing has been in Delhi, this daily hygiene issue doesn’t seem to be getting the daily treatment in requires. In buses or on the streets, a woman being teased or molested doesn’t seem to be seen as a symptom. Like that poor airline check-in girl who is your first point of contact? Yeah, he’s the nearest cop on the street or at the police station. The lowest one in the rank! Do you want to meet this cop in your worst nightmare? Most people dread the experience and contact a policeman only in very compelling circumstances. If eve-teasing is allowed to pass, it becomes the dust that gathers into a contagion called rape. This poor cop, like the check-in girl, is the lowest rung of the ladder, the Police Commissioner is the lowest rung in the political order and currently the PM and the ministers are the lowest rung of the dynastic order. The same poor cop faces the brunt of public ire during protests. One of them collapsed and died. The pic of PM and his ministers lining up for a guard of honour usually reserved for PMs, Presidents or State-Heads says a lot. And where are you, the people? We are the lowest fish in the whole food chain. Ironically, you should be the BOSS! You are the ones who either vote these people and/or pay their salaries. Yet, you are in a system where you, as the customer, come last.
In Bangalore autos have a picture of the driver, his license details in a large enough frame behind the driver’s seat. It’s something every passenger can read and note and lodge a complaint if the driver breaks traffic rules, cheats or is lawless. It also tell you whether the license is valid and whether the real, licensed driver is the behind the wheel and not a proxy. Now, does that take some extraordinary intelligence or judicial panel to do? We don’t find this in Delhi or many other cities. Why should Delhi autos or taxis which don’t run on meters be on the streets? Why shouldn’t drivers of such vehicles have a deterrent of 5-10 years in prison if they don’t follow rules? Nothing! Unfortunately, it is one such bus which wasn’t street-worthy, which wasn’t licensed to be on the streets in which this terrible Gangrape happened. It’s that window through which the criminals sneaked in. That window wasn’t fixed.
The Broken Window
(This is an edited extract from the Wiki article about fighting crime through the theory of ‘Broken Window’ and how quickly it needs to be fixed). The broken windows theory was first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, in an article titled "Broken Windows" and which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. The title comes from the following example:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars. Before the introduction of this, Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist, arranged an experiment testing the broken-window theory in 1969. Zimbardo arranged for an automobile with no license plates and the hood up to be parked idle in a Bronx neighbourhood (in New York City) and a second automobile in the same condition to be set up in Palo Alto, California.
The car in the Bronx was attacked by "vandals" within minutes of its "abandonment". Zimbardo noted that the first "vandals" to arrive was a family – a father, mother and a young son – who removed the radiator and battery. Within twenty four hours of its abandonment, everything of value had been stripped from the vehicle. After that, the car's windows were smashed in, parts torn, upholstery ripped, and children were using the car as a playground. At the same time, the vehicle sitting idle in Palo Alto, California sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo himself went up to the vehicle and deliberately smashed it with a sledgehammer. Soon after, people joined in for the destruction. It is believed that in a neighborhood such as the Bronx where the history of abandoned property and theft are more prevalent, vandalism occurs much more quickly as the community gives off a "no one cares" vibe. Similar events can occur in any civilized community when social barriers – the sense of mutual regard and obligations of civility – are lowered by actions that suggests "no one cares"
Broken Windows In Our Society
The theory of broken windows above quite explains the phenomenon of the crime culture in Delhi and neighbouring states. Ask yourself a question. If you leave your car in a public place in Delhi and another one in a public place in Ahmedabad, where do you think chances of it being stolen are higher? Anyone can easily guess. Rudy Guiliani and his police chiefs partly used the ‘broken window’ theory and test to fight crime in New York. Guiliani was successful in dramatically reducing crime in NY. How? He didn’t stop with thugs and Mafia-gangs; he also dealt with small offences like graffiti on public walls. Some crimes affect ordinary people directly some don’t. Insecurity in public places affects all. This is the reason Delhizens came out in numbers to protest. At the same time, not only Delhizens but people in many other cities in India do not demand performance from public service operators. The little auto mostly operates on a meter in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. In Chennai the auto driver may run the meter but will have a pre-condition: “20 rupees extra Saar”. Now, that 20 extra varies, depending on the distance you travel. Auto drivers suddenly turn into crooks at most railway and bus stations in India. Some years ago when I was in Kolkatta, even the fully depreciated, run down Trams had two classes: first and second. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two.
In Delhi it’s not just the public transport but every sphere of public life, be it medical shops, small restaurants, hotels, police stations, govt departments you will find it. Delhi also has the reputation of producing the most number of duplicates of branded products and even pirated IP products. There was a joke once that a Delhi trader was an outcast if he hadn’t bounced at least one cheque in a month. Encroachments, land smuggling, illegal extensions are all crimes and windows that are broken every single day in our cities. Rapes and murders are just a lot more dramatic; some more brutal than the others. Not surprisingly, when 9/11 happened, Rudy Guiliani was among the first-responders. He was with his people and his city. He was managing fire fighters on the ground and also talking to his citizens directly and through TV. In contrast, what did our leaders in Delhi do? They were mostly on TV and some were the ‘last responders’. Having gotten nowhere with justice for 26/11 (except for hanging the captured Kasab) our govt is now playing Cricket with Pakistan. That says a lot, doesn’t it?
Sheila Dikshit was tear-jerking on TV. Sushil Kumar Shinde was explaining why it makes no sense to meet protesters. Sonia Gandhi meets hand-picked ‘honey-bunnies’ in private. The PM makes a limp statement on TV days later to a comic finish with ‘Theek Hai’. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s super-hero future PM, is the last responder with a typical text-book statement. And Oh, who was the first one with the soundbites? Of course, the intellectual bank of the party, Renuka Chaudhary. She was telling the world rapists shouldn’t be allowed to open bank accounts and shouldn’t be given insurance policies. I suppose banks and insurance companies can easily tell which customer is a potential rapist before opening an account. There are other MPs who found protesting women to be “dented and painted” and media morons who found “lumpens” among them.
And our media? Oh they get all types to give us a running commentary with strange people. They even bring in Bollywood divas. Shabana Azmi was on TV from 6am in the morning on December 29 till about 10 in the night. The most pathetic and filthy response was, obviously, from the filthy ubiquitous Bollywood spokesman in the media, Mahesh Bhatt. He wants temples to be shut down. This comes from a man who regularly produces soft-porn movies and lip-kisses his own daughter. This is the broken window in Bollywood and our media. The response of Kartikeya Tanna (who often writes for FirstPost) quite sums up Bhatt’s stupidity. Even in a tragic crime of rape and murder Mahesh Bhatt spews hatred for Hindu culture or religion. And these are the guttermouths leading protests. You know where security and justice is headed.
Duct-Taping Broken Windows
On the night of December 27, Thursday the Delhi govt suddenly decided to shift the rape victim to Singapore for better treatment. The news broke around midnight and naturally people were suspicious. The woman was critical all through and chances of survival seemed thin. So it was indeed surprising why such a decision was taken. The media was cleared from the Safdurjang hospital. However, around midnight only one media celeb was allowed to report from the hospital area; not hard to guess who. There are now reports that the victim was in an irreversible coma and I personally believe doctors may not have given her long to survive. It just seems the govt didn’t want her to die on their “turf”. That would have turned a calamity into a complete disaster. So they shipped her off to Singapore, brought her dead body back and cremated her quietly in a hush-hush manner. These tweets from Minhaz Merchant, a media consultant and regular columnist, say it all. Instead of handling the truth and showing the courage to face people with reality, our govt was fixing the broken window with duct-tape. How long will that Band-Aid last?
The only person I could see who made any sense in the clutter was Harish Salve, the noted lawyer. He mentioned strongly that there was no need for new laws but that laws simply needed implementation and justice delivered faster. He stated that the punishments need to be the fullest under the law. The media even got former president Pratibha Patil to lament. She is the one who commuted the death sentence of around 35 criminals, some of whom were sentenced to death for rape and murder. Some of their victims were as young as 5-6 year old girls. The police rounded up the rapists in the current case within 48 hours. Compare with Durai Dayanidhi who was absconding for months in a Granite scam case before a court granted him bail. He mysteriously surfaced after he got bail. Compare the Gopal Kanda airhostess suicide case where a witness has jumped bail and disappeared. The political parties are yet to sack any of their MPs/MLAs who have rape or murder cases against them to prove to the people they are willing to act. RPN Singh, the very honourable minister, stated GOI will create a database of rape convicts. I wonder what he will do with it. Aren’t rape convicts anyway supposed to be in jail? All it needs is to sentence for longer terms or to death, if there is murder as well.
Sheila Dikshit blamed immigrants for increased crime in Delhi. P. Chidambaram had made a similar comment in the past. Whether immigrants or not, how they license buses and drivers is Delhi’s own turf. This is not a question of law or making more laws. It’s about really turning public servants to ACT as public servants. They need to do the daily sweeping and mopping to clean the dust. Windows will be broken every day and will need to be fixed every single day. Every politician in the govt who spoke after the Gangrape has shown absolutely no real intelligence on how they are going to clean up Delhi. Nothing! Except for changing the distress call number to 181, which was reportedly busy during a mishap this morning. This is also true for other cities and not Delhi alone. Carried away with all the attention and TRP-getting shows, the media too won’t honestly assess the crime situation. None even protested Manish Tiwari’s threat to curb telecast of the protests. A govt that has been too busy with scams and at election-time dishes out the regular doles is not going to fix much. Duct-taping can only hold for a while. Appeasement of Some and justice for None!