COMMUNITY POLICING IN SLUMS -- NEW EXPERIMENT
IN SEWREE, MUMBAI
Dr. PRADNYA SARAVADE, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Port Zone, Mumbai
People come to cities for better opportunities to earn their livelihood. There is an unabated migration towards cities from rural and underdeveloped areas. Such migration is not restricted by the geographical boundaries of States and instead what is seen is a continuous translocation of the poor from villages and small towns from all over the country, into a big city like Mumbai. Once they arrive in Mumbai the looming problem they immediately face is that of acquiring a roof over their heads. They can start earning some money by doing all kinds of jobs available in the market. But the only place for them to house themselves are the slums and footpaths.
The slums have, therefore, spread over all the availabel public and Government spaces in the city. It is said that 50% of Mumbai's population lives in slums.
In the Port Zone of Mumbai City Police, there are two important Police Station areas which have a large slum population -- Sewree and Wadala. Most families residing in Sweree live in small 8 x 6 sq.ft. rooms in congested localities. The average monthly earning of these families is approx. Rs. 2,000/-. The average educational level of the earning members of these families is 7th Standard. Most of residents of the slums in Sewree do not have much formal education at all. Thus, the area is largely populated by low income earning, minimally educated, daily wage earning type of people. Social problems like alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling are prevalent here because of poverty, lack of education and better opportunities and poor living conditions. Being unauthorised and illegal, the slums have minimal access to tap water supply and electricity.
On analysis the crime pattern and especially the reasons for peoples visits to the police station in Sewree, the following interesting facts emerged :-
(1) In the last six months, the Police Station recorded 78 FIRs, out of which 41 were body offences and 37 were property offences.
(2) In the same period, the Police Station recorded 727 non-congnizable matters which were reported to it.
(3) Analysis of the NC complaints is as follows :-
|Cause of the Complainant||No.|
Altercation over activities relating to giving and taking of money.
Altercation due to internal family disputes.
Continued altercation from earlier enmity.
Altercation between adults over fight between small children.
Altercation on issue of usage of common tap water
Altercation over premises.
Altercation over parking of two-wheeler/four-wheeler and on the issue of throwing garbage.
Minor assault leading to altercations.
Altercations because of business disputes.
Altercation due to other minor reasons.
(4) An analysis of complaints where more than one NC complaint had been made on the same matter, was also done. The findings were as follows :-
Type of repeated complaints in the last six months :
(a) Altercation on issue of usage of common tap water - 4
(b) Altercation over premises - 1
(c) Sudden quarrel - 2
(d) Altercation between adults over fight between small children - 2
(e) Altercation due to other minor reasons - 4
A perusal of the above facts clearly showed that the people residing in Sewree Police Station area have been coming to their Police Station largely to get police help in resolving their NC matters.
Obviously, being non-cognizable complaints, these points of friction have remained largely unattended to by the police, except for taking legal preventive action in stray cases. Dissatisfaction with police action/inaction or perceived biased police action was, therefore, high in such localities. This was visible from the large number of petitions to senior officers.
In order to address the problems of the people, keeping in mind their need for police intervention, a Mohalla Panchayat Programme was started in Sewree Police Station area from May, 2001. In this programme, we identified ten geographical sectors, which were separate clusters of population living in slums. Ten to eleven persons, including 3-4 women of good reputation and balanced judgement, living in these localities, were identified and nominated to the Mohalla Panchayat, in each of the ten localities. One Police Inspector of the Police Station besides the Sr. Inspector, each Inspector has been assigned to more than one Mohalla Panchayat. The task of the Panchayat including the Police Inspector convening it, is to meet at least once a week, at a spot in the same locality and bring before it, the disputing parties and disputes which resulted in recording of NCs at the Police Station/Beat House during the week. Till mid-June 2001, there have been 20 Mohalla Panchayat meetings in various localities of the Police Station area and 61 NC disputes reported at the Police Station hav been satisfactorily settled in these Panchayat. At the typical Mohalla Panchayat meeting in the locality besides the ten or eleven nominated residents and the disputing parties, a large number of onlooking residents view the proceedings. Everybody feels free to intervene if the matter has not been viewed in proper perspective by the Mohalla Panchayat. Uninvolved people of the localities as well as the disputing parties accept the consensual decision of the Mohalla Panchayat perceiving it to be fair and just. Taking of decision by the Mohalla Panchayat increases the acceptability of such decisions by all concerned. The Police Inspector and his men attending the Panchayat also come to be increasingly accepted by the community as part of themselves and there is decreased distrust between police and the people.
I would like to enumerate some good fallouts of this uniquely adapted Community Policing Programme in Sweree.
The perceptible satisfaction level of the people that the Police Station caters to, is now better. The number of NCs recorded at the Police Station in the period, 15th May, 2001 to 15th June, 2001, was 115. The figure for the corresponding period in 2000 was 120 and the average monthly NCs for the year 2000 was 105. Monitoring of NCs recorded and public petitions of grievances will be done over a longer span of time in order to correctly evaluate the usefulness of this programme.
The police officers conduct the Mohalla Panchayat in the respective localities. This has meant that the concerned police officers are getting better acquainted with the common people of these areas. The mistrust of the people towards the police has come down and policing as a service has gone to the doorstep of the communities.
It is further expected that this programme run over a period of time, will bring people even more closer to the Police Station Officers and there will be greater participation and help from the local communities in solving cognizable crimes. Due to active interaction between the local people and the Police Station Officers, it is expected that the availability of intelligence on law and order and communal matters will increase at the Police Station and the Police Station will be able to deliver its services in maintaining peace and communal harmony in the area more effectively. The Mohalla Panchayat Programme has been adapted from the Village Panchayat formats which are already existing in rural areas, for better policing of slums in Sewree, Mumbai. Special care has been taken to carefully nominate members to the Mohalla Panchayat, excluding any political, caste or religious considerations and ensuring that there is a 30-35% women's representation on these Panchayats. This careful selection of members as well as the holding of Mohalla Panchayat meetings in the respective localities, has increased the people's acceptability of this initiative by the Police. Rather, there is an overwhelming response from the local people and the programme in perceived as honest and effective, by the people. The success of this programme has largely been due to the structuring of a programme which is well adapted to the requirements of the local people. Every community Policing initiative should, therefore, aim to understand and reflect solutions for the unique requirements of each local area.
Article published in CBI Bulletin, June 2001