March 07, 2006

Friendly cops

Police Commissioner R. Nataraj now has a line open for citizens.
And I wonder how many 'thank you' calls he gets.
We are quick to crib but slow to acknowledge a good deed by a state agency. Be it the city police, the power and water boards or the Chennai Corporation.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find residents of the Virugambakkam neighbourhood very forthcoming in their good words for officers at a local face-to-face meeting.
Officials can be very bored people at such meetings. Aware that they will be bombarded with a fusillade of plaints, the time-worn ones know how to enjoy forty winks with their eyes still open.
Others nod their heads to frustrations about mounting garbage or pleas for better street lighting.
I find that there is some positive change in their attitude today - if citizens take their rights seriously and mean business.
At this Virugambakkam area meeting, facilitated by Exnora, the men who got the most bouquets were the men in khaki. An Assistant Commissioner and a local Inspector took active part in the proceedings. They took copious notes when people raised local issues and responded in detail to each query.
Perhaps the Virugambakkam neighbourhood should dash off a nice 'thank you' note to Commissioner Nataraj about his local officers.
Regular meetings of residents of a neighbourhood and officials of state agencies, which provide services locally, can do wonders to community life.
Not because they are a platform to seek solutions to our leaking water pipe or stinking garbage bin outside our gate but because they must be the fora to raise and discuss broader issues that affect the community at large.
I was surprised again at the large turnout at the Virugambakkam meeting on a weekday evening. Most stayed on till the end - 8.45pm. Many appreciated the contributions made by different officers and their staff.
Yet, communities have not realised the need to meet amongst themselves more often, to share the responsibility of follow-up action and to put their hands together on a day-to-day basis.
They may congregate in large numbers for a high-profile meeting.
But many will look the other way if they have to take turns to patrol a colony targeted by petty thieves.

Is this typical of Chennai?

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