METRO PLUS

Tackling misdemeanour on Race Course

THE HORSES are back on Race Course. Not for competing against each other but to ensure public discipline.

The haven of walkers, Race Course is bustling with activity at dawn and dusk, with the health-conscious making use the tree-lined boulevard to burn their calories. Though there are other walking tracks in the city, people prefer coming here because of the serene and sylvan surroundings and the absence of vehicular and noise pollution.

Exercise can get tiring and the benches provided alongside the track help walkers relax and continue their stroll. However, the very same benches and the bush-lined avenue have been misused by people, prompting the police to take action to restore decency on the stretch.

The Race Course Police has deployed mounted policemen to patrol the walking track to keep undesirable elements at bay and prevent people from making it out behind the bushes. Besides the men on horses, plainclothes policemen also guard the track on foot and in jeeps. "The primary objective of this exercise is to keep out anti-social elements coming to the track with ulterior motives," says B. Sakthivel, Inspector of Police, Race Course.

Youngsters and middle-aged men choose this place to idle away their time. Sitting along the walking track, they indulge in eve-teasing, embarrassing walkers. Some are brazen enough to chase women. Incidents of chain snatching have also been reported. Inspector General of Police, West Zone, Narinder Pal Singh, who regularly takes a walk with his wife, once caught a youth who attempted to snatch a chain from a woman and misbehave with her.

Tackling misdemeanour on Race Course

District Collector, N. Muguranandam, also a regular walker, wrote to City Police Commissioner, Sanjay Arora, narrating how four persons who came in a Maruti Omni followed a woman walker from Trichy Road asking her to join them for a ride and a cup of coffee.

The efforts to bring in discipline have, however, come under fire. Complaints are rife that elderly people and genuine couples are questioned impolitely by the police and that no one is allowed to sit on the benches to take a break.

"To tackle this, the policemen on patrol duty are being regularly briefed and advised on the do's and dont's and on the need to be polite and courteous," says Mr. Sanjay Arora. And, in case such excesses take place, the public should note the number and name of the person involved and bring it tothe notice of senior officers. Mr. Sakthivel explains that the intention of the police is not to harass genuine walkers and couples. But, since it is not easy to identify people with criminal intentions by looking at their faces, it becomes necessary not to show any discrimination in asking people to avoid sitting around the track unnecessarily, he says.

"The police cannot be silent spectators when lovers and couples behave indecently behind the bushes in broad daylight. Also, criminal elements make use of the benches along the track and misbehave with women walking alone," he remarks.

As for aged people and those with health complications wanting to sit down after a walk, they can make use of the benches put up opposite Hotel Surya, near Cosmopolitan Club, near Government Arts College and near the Thomas Park bus stop, he adds.