If a picture can say a thousand words, imagine what five pictures of defunct beat chowkies can say? They say that these chowkies are a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Yesterday, this paper carried a front-page report on a number of police beat chowkies in different areas of the city. In every instance, they were being used for all things except what they were meant for — police watch.

The original purpose of these chowkies was to form key on-ground connects with the community, respond faster to crimes, form a rapport with residents and concentrate on intelligence gathering. While that may sound like extremely small tasks, those who know about policing will realize just how important the local policeman is in the pecking order. Even elite anti-terror units talk about how vital community policing is in fighting terror. It is very often the local policeman that is the first and vital breakthrough to sophisticated crime and terror plots.

The police chowkies in the report have been defunct for some years. One sees cows tethered to it. Another has become a storage and dumping ground for construction material. One in Bhandup lies unused because nobody wants to man it. The overpowering stench from a public toilet next to this chowkie means policemen refuse to enter it, and shun postings. A chowkie functioned for a while as a gym and then was assimilated into a chawl, and, in perhaps the biggest irony, one empty chowkie has become a haven for anti-social elements.

Why did the authorities allow these chowkies to remain empty and defunct? Firstly, they should have been constructed after proper thought. Then, they should not have been allowed to remain empty and become defunct. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money and a myopic approach to infrastructure. When one builds a public facility, it must have some reason and logic behind it. This is a ludicrous waste of time, money and effort. It is actually not only defunct, but also counterproductive. Crime fighting bastions have been breached by anti-socials themselves.