This is a weekly column that will focus on crime and policing in the city.
Recently, a traffic situation was sorted out without the complainants actually walking up to the cops.
All they had to do was to complain on the Facebook page of the Chennai City Traffic Police.
The police resolved the issue and even hosted telltale ‘before and after’ photographs of the parking situation on Bells Road, Triplicane.
Chennai City Traffic Police, the Facebook page created by the traffic police in 2011, believe it or not, receives just over 10 complaints daily. Surely, commuters on city roads encounter more than just 10 problems a day.
The page however seems fairly popular among Chennaiites, having received 49,344 likes.
A nodal officer from the force collects and forwards the complaints to the officers in the respective jurisdictions.
A status report on every complaint received is expected within a stipulated time period.
Apart from complaints of neighbours who encroach on a person’s parking space, other ‘attendable’ complaints are also addressed. Grievances related to illegal parking of travel cabs, lorries on busy stretches and even, unnecessary traffic hold-ups at signals have been aired online.
Suggestions and recommendations on the page are often acknowledged by the traffic police department.
A classic example was when the Sholinganallur junction traffic signal (with a 90-second halt), which commuters thought was unnecessary, was removed. Now, barricades have replaced the signal and traffic flow circumvents it, easing the bottleneck.
In a city like Chennai, encroachments on public space, and the subsequent removal of these structures is a perennial issue.
It’s usually a blame game: residents/road users blame government officials, and government departments in turn blame the police.
Complaints of police inaction frequently come from Chennai Corporation and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department. Both these departments are also at the receiving end of complaints from the public.
Sometimes, it is about removing people lock, stock and barrel; people who, driven by poverty, have made the public space their own.
Police officials say they really cannot take sides in such a situation. They say that recent instances such as moving tenants from slum tenements in Kodungaiyur or fishermen from a property belonging to the fisheries department were difficult as there was a likelihood of law and order issues.
S. George, Commissioner of Police, Chennai, defends the force. As and when any requests for encroachment removals are received from departments, police officials have been cooperative; his only dictum is that officials have to apply their mind to conditions on the ground and provide security accordingly.