Mumbai not alert: Busy city has no time to report unclaimed bags
Over the past 2 weeks, cops placed unattended baggage at sensitive spots, to test the vigilance of citizens. The findings: most ignored them, some rummaged through for valuables but no one called the police.
In spite of being the unwitting targets in a slew of terror assaults in recent memory, Mumbaikars are still deplorably naive when it comes to keeping their city safe. And going by the experiences of city cops who recently staged mock drills to gauge the city’s alertness, its complacent citizens may have to learn their lessons the hard way.
With the city being put on high alert in the wake of the Hyderabad bomb blasts, the police was asked to conduct several mock drills and simulate situations that would help them check the alacrity and alertness of citizens at large.
Members of the squad, formed by Addl CP Krishna Prakash, abandoned handbags and boxes at various public places to check if anyone noticed them and raised the alarm. They didn’t.
“Despite being targeted time and again, this city is yet to learn. It seems that people in the city have lost the value for human life. The mock drills became a mockery when the civilians, instead of reporting the suspicious objects, went ahead and opened the bags to check the belongings,” said an officer from the squad, requesting anonymity.
Over a period of two weeks, the squad has been surreptitiously placing bags and boxes at certain strategic locations, including Grant Road railway station, Girgaum Chowpatty, near the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, and the diamond hubs in Panch Ratna and Zaveri Bazaar. The squad in south Mumbai has covered at least a dozen sensitive areas, revealed a police official.
Senior Inspector A Surve of DB Marg police station said, “We had placed several bags in our area. The response was extremely poor, except at a few locations. In most of the places, the ‘unidentified objects’ went unnoticed. No one bothered to alert the police or call the helpline numbers. At one place, one of the pedestrians even opened the bag. Finding nothing in it, he walked off.”
The ‘abandoned’ bags were left at each spot for close to an hour. As part of the drill, a team comprising an inspector and a couple of constables leaves the bag at a prominent public place, and watches from a distance. They are stationed there to step in and assuage fears if the discovery of the bag causes panic. In most cases however, they were left twiddling their thumbs in their hiding spots, as the city’s busy citizens took no notice.
At spots where the objects did catch the attention of pedestrians, huge crowds gathered. “The response is very bad. When we are conducting such drills, huge crowds congregate when they find the bags. In fact, people should take cover and stay away,” said Senior Inspector V Sawant of Colaba police station.
DCP Nisar Tamboli said, “Apart from testing the alertness of citizens, we have also started several awareness programmes in which we educate the people on how to stay alert. The response is good but not satisfactory.”
Under the awareness programme initiated in the wake of the Hyderabad blasts, the officials from the special squads have conducted a series of street plays, meetings, get-togethers in south Mumbai. Meetings have been arranged at corporate offices, the RBI, the Bombay Stock Exchange, Opera House, Churchgate and CST railway stations.
Terror targets Mumbai
July 13, 2011: Serial blasts at Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazar during peak hours left 27 dead and over 130 injured
July 11, 2006: Seven explosions in first-class bogies in local trains on the Western Railway network killed 188 and left over 300 injured
Aug 25, 2003: Twin blasts at Zaveri Bazar and Gateway of India killed 55 people and injured over 240
Mar 12, 1993: 250 people died and over 800 were injured when 12 serial blasts at Nariman Point, Worli, Bandra and Juhu rocked the city