Thursday, July 20, 2006

From Pensioners' Paradise to Criminals' Paradise

Under the cover of darkness
Deccan Herald

An auto driver assaults and robs an Australian woman...

A youth is robbed and stabbed near Cantonment railway station ...

A lady returning home at around 7 pm is waylaid by two men on a scooter and her gold chain snatched...

A techie is taken at knife-point to an ATM and forced to withdraw cash and part with belongings...

A woman returning home is stalked...

This is Namma Bengaluru today, the happening IT City. Shocking, isn’t it? Bangaloreans consider their city as 'cool' and safe. Sadly, this is not a safe city anymore. Burglaries, assaults by auto drivers, muggings, chain snatchings, hit and run accidents, robbing at knife point and crimes against women are an everyday occurence.

So has Pensioners’ Paradise turned into a ‘Criminals’ Paradise’? How safe do you feel walking on the City’s roads or bylanes after dark? Malathi, a bank employee says, “Everyday I hear a lot of stories from my relatives, friends and colleagues about increasing crimes in the City. It gives me the chills.”

New job opportunities have brought an influx of people from outside the City, leading to disparities in earnings between localites and out-of-towners, which is probably one of the reasons for increase in crime, says Siddharth, a techie who himself came to the City about a year ago in search of better jobs.

Socio-economic changes have certainly widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, asserts businessman Rajesh, adding, “Increasing frustration among the unemployed youth could be a cause for increasing crime rate.”Amreesh, another techie says, “Women are at the receiving end of such crimes most of the time because they are soft targets. I get very anxious for my wife who usually comes home late from office. Vigilance groups in neighbourhoods with the help of the police, can bring some relief.” Bhagya, mother of Netra, a call centre employee says, “I have sleeepless nights worrying about her safety. Last year’s killing of Pratibha is still so fresh in our minds.”

Pramod who moved to Bangalore from Mumbai says, “Organised crimes may be high in Mumbai but I never felt unsafe there. I cannot say the same about Bangalore. After dark, this city just becomes quiet and there are not too many people on the roads. Darkness assumes a few shades more here, perhaps!” Tony, an executive says, “The fact that the police are unable to bring many culprits to book or take any strict action against those nabbed, emboldens other miscreants.”

But there are tangible solutions, say people. “Culprits should be punished severely to discourage others. It is time that the authorities worked out a strategy to make the City safe for its citizens,” stresses S Nanjappa, an ex-serviceman. Arshad, a college student feels, “If the police are tough, they can bring down the crime rate significantly. Hoysala vans must be more visible and the policemen must be more alert and equipped to deal with such crimes.”

What causes such crimes? Development has a darker side and with increasing affluence comes growth in anxiety. The lure of lucre leads some onto paths they conceive as shortcuts to achieve their aim. Harini, a social activist says, “I think degenereting moral values makes people adopt illegimate ways of making money. They see so many avenues to spend money but do not possess the skills to make it - so they take the easy route - simply snatch it from those who have it.”

As Bangalore reveals its dark underbelly, citizens of this peace-loving city, not used to such happenings, are beginning to wonder if this is the price they pay for development.

SAFETY TIPS

Avoid lonely roads after dark, even if you are driving your vehicle.

Carry something for your safety - like blunt knife, umbrella, pepper spray or chilli powder. And use it when attacked. If you wear a helmet, that can come in handy too.

If attacked, hit the attacker in the groin or poke his eyes. Resist all attempts of the attacker. Scream out loud to attract attention. Sometimes passers-by will help you. When free from attacker, run to the nearest police station or a crowded place.

While walking, be alert. Don’t look lost, afraid or chat into your phone incessantly. Walk confidently.

If reaching home late alone in a cab or auto, call a friend or family member and give details of vehicle (number, colour and driver’s name if the vehicle displays an ID) and route you are taking.

Do not wear expensive jewellery. If you must, avoid displaying it.

It’s never too late to learn a few martial art techiniques.

Store emergency numbers on speed dial on your handset.

Under any circumstances, do not panic.

Police-speak

When asked about measures the police can take to instill confidence in people, Police Commissioner Neelam Achutha Rao said, “Crimes in the City are not new. It is due to many internal and external reasons like migrants, slackness of prevention and detection, etc., that crimes like these take place. The police force is being sensitised towards the rising demands (of tackling these problems). Precautionary measures like night patrolling will be increased, especially in the affected areas.”

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