Adding some colour

Adding some colour

These days chain-snatching, cheating and home robberies are as common as head lice in a girls’ school. The accounts of these incidents are written by local journalists who sometimes tend to use colourful phrases. I often read of the culprits ‘vanishing into thin air’ or the local police going into a ‘tizzy.’ I would like to discuss these two terms at greater length.

First, the culprits ‘vanishing into thin air.’ It is practically impossible for real, solid people to vanish into air, thin or otherwise. When a man on a bike snatches a woman’s chain, or robs a man and flees the scene, bystanders or the police may chase them. If the perpetrators of the crime are not found, it is not because they have disappeared, but because they are hiding in plain sight.

Robbers and cheats don’t roam the streets wearing masks or sporting giant black moles like in old Indian movies. They are ordinary-looking people who have an extraordinarily low sense of common ethics and values. Why, look at all the respectable-looking people in government offices who accept bribes. These people see nothing wrong in enriching themselves at the labour of others, and take pride in getting money the ‘easy’ way. All a thief has to do is to pass himself off as a concerned bystander while passing on the stolen goods to an accomplice, and he ‘disappears.’ In the case of the folks that accept bribes, they don’t even hide their rapacity, and can be easily caught.

This is not unknown to our police force. They are very aware that if they are vigilant, look hard enough, and in the right places, they will find the culprits. But there is no enthusiasm among the police to prevent crimes or solve them.

Witness policemen at traffic lights, standing by the roadside on their motorbikes and speaking on cellphones while motorists run red lights right in front of their eyes, breaking the law and creating dangerous situations. The police force’s unwillingness to act is because of fear of reprisals, as goons are often close friends or relatives of political figures, or simply because they don’t care.

Now, about police going into a ‘tizzy.’ I looked up the word in a thesaurus and found it to mean ‘panic’ or ‘dither’. If the victim of a crime goes into a panic, it is wholly understandable. However, if the police who are recruited, maintained and paid to aid that victim go into a panic, what can the poor victim do? Unfortunately, the journalists who write these pieces are not too far off the mark. The word ‘tizzy’ describes exactly the way that the law enforcement in this country acts when confronted with a problem.

Instead of dealing with right and wrong, legal and illegal, and crime and punishment, its thought processes are addled with who is related to whom, who is allowed to commit crimes and who is not, and how much of bribe money is to be charged for which crime.
Police morale is understandably low in India, with every movie showing its cadres as being either brutal and corrupt, or silly and corrupt. But the only way to raise it is by behaving in a conscientious, courteous, responsive and responsible manner to the people who pay their salaries. It is definitely not by living up to or down to its portrayal on the silver screen.

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