Citizens make a mockery of police's mock terror drills
About 50 run-throughs conducted by the city police’s SpecialBranch since March have revealed one inescapable fact – Punekars are still injudicious about the threat of terror. As part of the exercise, cops abandoned bags at key and sensitive locations, including at hotels, temples, eateries, etc, to gauge the alertness of denizens.
Only 10 of the 50 dry runs evoked some encouraging reaction from the citizenry. In the rest of the instances, the ‘unidentified objects’ were either opened by people out of curiosity, or simply ignored.
In Deccan-Gymkhana area, where all the blasts took place, the local police station had conducted as many as 13 such exercises at places like the McDonald’s outlet on JM Road, where one of the blasts took place in a dustbin outside the outlet. “Only in one of the cases, a person who spotted the bag made the effort to alert the police control room,” said inspector Manohar Joshi.
The dry runs that failed miserably were the ones conducted at Hong Kong Lane (the famous window shopping stretch on FC road), the McDonald’s outlet where one of the blasts took place, Cafe Good Luck, a footpath near Canara Bank, PMT Bus stop on JM Road, Central Mall, Chocolate Room on FC Road, Manoranjan Nagari on riverbed, in front of Shoe World outlet (one of the blasts had occurred here), Sai Service Petrol Pump on JM Road, inside KFC at R Mall, in front of Dena Bank (was also targeted) and famous south Indian eatery Vaishali.
He said that apart from the local police station, sleuths from the Special Branch too had conducted such drills at Vaishali, Wadeshwar, Rupali and on the footpaths of JM Road. However, none of their attempts stirred up a heartening outcome.
Speaking about the Vaishali drill, Joshi said that on July 19 some of their cops went to the eatery in plainclothes and abandoned a bag containing some electronic items and a knife at the eatery on FC Road, came out and waited nearby.
After some time, one of the waiters who found the bag under a table, picked it up, came to the counter, and showed it to the manager. However, the latter directed him to keep it with the security guard.
“The waiter then came outside the eatery and showed the bag to the guard. As our police officers – who were watching the proceedings – had expected, the security guard asked the waiter to open the bag. While the waiter did suggest that there could be a bomb inside, they finally unfastened the bag to check its contents,” said Joshi.
Senior inspector Satish Devre of Special Branch too conceded that there is gross negligence among people towards terror. He enumerated that since March, his agency has conducted 50 mock drills in the city’s famous commercial establishments like Hard Rock Cafe at Koregaon Park, Cognizant at Hinjewadi IT Park, and other key places. However, only in 10 cases the police control room received calls.
Joshi said that they have issued notices to the establishments for their lax attitude. He alleged that these shops do not call the police control room, thinking that a police inspection of the place would eat into their business hours.
Blasts from the past
The explosions occurred at locations within a radius of 1 km in Jangli Maharaj Road: in front of Balgandharva Auditorium, opposite KFC restaurant near Garware Bridge, Dena Bank branch at Jangli Maharaj Road, and in front of a McDonald’s restaurant. The bombs left one injured. All the blasts occurred between 7:27 pm and 8:15 pm. The bombings took place on the evening when newly-appointed home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde was scheduled to visit the Tilak Smarak Ranga Mandir for an award ceremony.