As incidents of violence against on-duty traffic cops see rise, experts say stress levels, frustration behind alarming trend
A police officer monitors motorists in south Mumbai on December 24, 2022. File Pic/Atul Kamble
This year has witnessed a disconcerting surge in assaults on on-duty traffic policemen. According to recent data, the number of such incidents has risen from 19 in 2022 to 29 by November 28, 2023, prompting growing concerns about the safety of those tasked with managing traffic on our streets. Law enforcement officials play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of pedestrians and motorists. However, the escalating trend is alarming, reflecting a concerning disregard for authority and public safety.
Authorities are grappling with the question of what might be fueling this surge in violence. Possible contributing factors include increased stress levels, frustration among the public or a broader erosion of respect for authority figures.
Traffic officials speak
Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Pravinkumar Padwal said, “Such offenders are booked under section 353 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and are sentenced to two years of imprisonment.” Another senior official from the traffic division said, “The number of incidents recorded this year is 29 but can even be higher as many minor incidents of verbal abuse, also considered violence, may go unreported.”
Constable Vilas Shinde died after being assaulted at Khar in 2016
A traffic constable stationed in Borivli said, “Every traffic cop faces the risk of being assaulted. We need to be cautious and vigilant. Many realise their mistakes and pay the fine for their offence but there are people who often verbally abuse us for stopping them. Some even threaten us by boasting about their connections with powerful people or politicians. What they don’t understand is that the rules are made for their safety as well as that of others on the roads.”
Another traffic constable stationed in Bandra said it has become difficult for his peers to perform their duty when such things happen. “After all, even we are human beings. We are not there to create problems for the already frustrated populace. The issue is that people violate the traffic rules and when we stop them for doing so, they think that we are doing it on purpose,” he said.
Level of injuries inflicted
The level of offences in such cases ranges from verbal abuse to physical attacks on traffic policemen attempting to enforce traffic regulations. Some injuries are even fatal in such offences. Such incidents not only jeopardise the safety of the officers but also undermine the overall effectiveness of traffic management efforts.
One such incident happened in 2016 at Khar where A 24-year-old man along with his teenage brother assaulted on-duty traffic constable Vilas Shinde after the traffic policeman stopped the teenager for riding without a helmet and driving licence. The accused, who was convicted, battered Constable Shinde with a bamboo stick and repeatedly kicked him in the stomach even after the latter collapsed on the spot. Shinde had suffered a severe fracture to his skull and died three days later while being treated at a hospital. Safety measures incorporated by the traffic division include a body-worn camera in order to record such incidents and help debunk false accusations.
Senior advocate Kishor Joshi said, “Most incidents where an on-duty traffic constable is assaulted involve those in the age group of 18 to 30. The problem is their upbringing as the generation seems to have not been disciplined at home. The younger generation usually feels offended when a traffic constable stops them for many reasons, a major one of which is not wearing a helmet. This issue is very much more serious than it seems to be. The police force is already understaffed and with such assaults, the number of policemen serving on the ground keeps reducing, increasing the load on the already overburdened department.”
Asked about what safety measures should be taken in order to reduce such assaults, Joshi said, “What I suggest is that each on-duty traffic constable should be issued with a baton for self-defence purposes. Also, reflective waistcoats should be issued day and night so that the traffic official is spotted at least half a kilometre away. This will reduce the number of traffic rule violations by 50-60 per cent.”
Human rights activist Priti Patkar provided insights into the causes of the rise in aggression among the general public saying, “Anger is a natural emotion. Not just now but even years back, it has been a cause of many offences. Usually in the cases of youngsters, it keeps piling up as they have no one to share what they feel either because of the generation gap between their parents or the fear of being mocked by their peers. A simple traffic stop can make the person feel humiliated leading to the outburst of this piled-up emotion. Another factor is the fear of what they are going to tell their parents or how are they going to arrange the fine amount which can lead to youngsters taking such steps in a panic situation.”
As the year draws to a close, local authorities are closely monitoring the situation and working towards implementing measures to address this disturbing trend. It is suspected that the number of offences will increase till the year-end.
No of traffic cops assaulted in ’23