Policing Pune in times of terror

Published: 17 December, 2012 07:01 IST | A Correspondent |

Commissioner of Police Gulabrao Pol talks to Team MiD DAY on the importance of public awareness and the role media can play in keeping the city a secure place at a time when suspected terror operative Qateel Siddiqui's murder in jail and 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Qasab's execution in the city have given rise to fears of more terror attacks

The city seems to be a hot terror target. What might be the reason?
The city is expanding in all directions. A lot of people are migrating from outside and settling here. We don’t even know who our neighbours are. Therefore the whole scenario demands public support for security.

Did you notice a casual approach on the part of people towards the recent mock drill on Fergusson College Road?
People are not at all serious about security. We have appealed frequently to the media and the people about creating awareness. We have also undertaken various campaigns in schools and colleges. People touch or come close to any unidentified object without thinking and make it difficult for us to control the situation. In the Beed radio (blast) case and on FC Road, people displayed their carelessness towards their own security.

Straight talk: Commissioner of Police Gulabrao Pol shares his views on a wide gamut of issues, from maintaining law and order to cyber vigilance, with the MiD DAY team. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

Can the method of the mock drill be changed?
We have held many meetings. We are trying to make them (mock drills) as sudden as possible. We also have distributed tele-films and educational material regarding public security to various institutions. We have only 8,000 policemen at present, which is a very small number with respect to the population of the city. Thus, we need public cooperation.

Are you working on any ideas for registering people as volunteers in the police?
Our registration camps are already getting good reactions from people. We look forward to an increase in the support and this will help us prevent mishaps. During Ganeshotsav 2012, a lot of people had volunteered and that made it possible for us to control such a huge crowd.

We know that the city hosts a major command of the army. Is there a rift between the army and the police?
No, we are on very good terms with the army and in fact help each other frequently. The Southern Command bomb squad has better equipment and trained staff than us, so they help us in many situations.

What is the situation with the CCTV systems?
According to the report submitted on December 4, every city will have independent CCTV systems with a network of 1,200 CCTVs. The PMC should cooperate with the police on the matter. We also are promoting the registration of private CCTVs.

How active is the FRO?
Our people are always on the lookout. We are taking action against foreigners staying illegally in the city. Our aim and objective is chasing crime registration. We are taking preventive measures.

What can we do about the lag in our intelligence?
The police are being kept occupied by communal disharmony and pride issues. Unless we reach out to the public we cannot gather intelligence. For example, we got a call from Ambernath (Kalyan) that a bomb was planted in Mumbai and Pune at a time, but it was a fake call. The success that we have 99 times is ignored just because of one failure.

The Secret Service fund does not reach the lower levels of police intelligence. What is your view about this?
It is nothing like that. We provide these funds depending on the need of the hour or the occasion.

Is absence of female personnel at malls and theatres at night to frisk ladies compromising the security of these areas?
There are very few women in private security agencies. But now that you have brought our attention to this topic, we will ask them to have female security personnel with them.

In the wake of the recent cases regarding social networks and freedom of expression, what are your ideas to tackle such situations?
After these incidents, I have instructed my personnel to make thorough investigation before arresting anyone.

Are there any new amendments in the cyber laws and is our cyber cell efficient enough?
It is difficult to control the internet. But our cyber cell did a fantastic job in controlling the situation during the Northeast problem. The Pune police are even ranked by many as number one in Maharashtra.

After 1985-1990, foot patrolling has been stopped. It was very effective then. Why is it not being done when it is so effective?
Then, personnel used to move on bicycles and bikes as the city was small and the population was less. Today, they have to use cars and patrol vans so as to cover as much area of the city as possible. But now that you are asking us and bringing the matter to our attention, I will give immediate orders to start the foot patrols. Indian Mujahiddin has threatened us openly after the hanging of Qasab. Rumour mills and prank calls trouble our force a lot. Plus, the media exaggerates mis-information to increase TRP. For example, the mock drill at Lohegaon was mistaken for an actual fire at the airport and within minutes was on the television. Trivial things are blamed on the police. Nowadays the tolerance levels of people is decreasing, giving rise to incidents of violence even on a domestic level.

Do you have any crash course or training for quality policing?
Courses are held at many places. These courses are available at Nashik, Kolkata, etc. Maharashtra Intelligence Academy provides such courses for officers too. They are three-to-four-day courses. Pressure is always high as there are lots of people coming from the rural areas to the city. The rural situation in India is very grave. In every case the police have to intervene and handle everything. Other government machinery is dependent finally on the police.

Why are people still afraid of going to the police?
The media has a great role to play in spreading awareness. We order our officers to contact the public and be at good terms with them. I am also available on phone for the locals around. We cannot be successful if we are not open.

We have frequent reports that the FIR is not taken by the police. What do you have to say on this?
The city’s population is increasing and so also crime is increasing too. So, an FIR should be registered. I pull up officers not for (rise in) crime but for not taking action against it.

Are there any new proposals for converting chowkies to stations and creating new chowkies?
Yes, there are proposals, but the major problem is availability of place and premises for the installation of the chowkies. 

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