November 30, 2009

Chennai Traffic Police: PR Tip!

Is this a good suggestion for the top cop of Chennai City Traffic Police Shakeel Akhter?
Akhter and his top brass have decided to make changes in the traffic system in the core of Mylapore from this weekend.
This is not an experiment, he says and plays it safe in the streak of officialese. What means is that we have studied the issue, we are introducing the changes and we will take stock of it in say, 30/60/90 days.
Fair enough.
We take it that ideas, suggestions and tips may have have come into Akhter's mail box from schools, shops, Mylaporeans, chatterers and specialists.
When the new system gets going at dawn there is going to be confusion, tempers will rise and motorists and cyclists will probably go in circles till they find their way.
That is expected. And things should fall in place the week after.
Now we have a suggestion for Akhter and his men.
It may also be a nice PR exercise.
Can we have some kiosk-like nooks or bright volunteers from the Traffic Force who will stand at key joints in the area that will endure the changes so that people can share feedback on the spot?
Yes, Akhter has a e-mail ID we can use. The City Police has a suggestion box on its web site which we can also use.
Yes, people can use post cards and inland letters to dash off what in on their mind.
How about live feedback counters?
I have keenly studied similar issues in Alwarpet and in Ashok Nagar.
In Alwarpet, people whined in private. Local police muttered. But it was only when a small group of citizens organised a formal meeting and arranged a formal face to face with the Top Cop did the issue get the attention is required. The system was dropped. And 'Thank You City Police' posters came up!

In Ashok Nagar, police ignored the citizens. They acted tough. But the citizens didn't give up and even planned to take their battle to the Chief Minister's gate. Egos clashed, sparks went off. Finally, the system was withdrawn.

Do we have ways in which key projects for citizens are debated and feedback welcomed and respected?

November 21, 2009

Good idea Mr. Commissioner

Did City Police Commissioner T. Rajendran do the proper thing by letting school students handle guns and fiddle with pistols?

Some eyebrows may have gone up.

But I think this idea of inviting senior school students to their neighbourhood police stations this past week was a nice one.

The teenagers seem to have enjoyed the visit, learnt a lot and seem to have come out better-informed.

After all, Rajendran and his top brass' idea was not only to get a few city students to know their police stations better and get closer to his officers and men but also tell them about the rights children enjoy and the role they can play in a community/neighbourhood.

Even as November draws to a close, a month during which we at our newspapers encourage senior students to go out, get curious, dig a bit, gather information, report and write on local people and events, I recall the stories that some children shared with us after their trips to local police and fire stations, EB and Chennai Corporation offices.

In fact, one of them who managed to convince a officer to take him on a night patrol trip in the neighbourhood gently reminded me of his reportage experience as the local TV news channels unfolded their coverage of Rajendran's project this past week.

I think Rajendran and his officers should now get college students to the stations. We need more enlightened youths to be with us in the neighbourhood. It will pay.

I also think it is time that Mayor Subramanian and Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni followed the Top Cop's example.

If the young must know about their rights and the laws of the land, they should also know about what the City Fathers do for their neighbourhoods.

These projects should not be one time events. They should be kept rolling and repeated.

The fact that over 100 students now know what an FIR is, now have the phone numbers of local police stations and can even call the officers at any time, makes a huge difference.

It matters. Don't you think so?

November 07, 2009

Be a part of civic campaigns

Thank you N. Ram for setting an example.
Don't be surprised if you get to meet a bunch of people in unique gear sharing their positive sentiments at the November Music Fest later this month.
Ram followed up on what he, as Chief Editor preaches at 'The Hindu'.
He politely declined the sponsorship of a company which has been at the heart of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Dow was one of the key sponsors of the annual music fest that the newspaper hosts in our city.
It has been targeted by activists all over the world for its response to the world's biggest disaster. So, when some of them based in our city learnt that the company was an integral part of the fest, they acted fast.
A slew of letters, faxes and e-mails flew into the offices of the 'The Hindu'. In less than 24 hours, Ram responded.
A positive campaign had made its impact.
It requires a bunch of alert, dedicated and determined people to run a campaign and ensure goodness comes out of it.
Are you one of them?
The monsoon is with us. Our roads are flooded. Our drains are overflowing. Our common spaces are pools of water.
Can we help our local officers do a better job of what they should be doing?
Take a walk around your colony and SMS them a list of the streets where water has been stagnating for days, where Corporation school children must negotiate slush and where trees have been uprooted.
If action is not forthcoming in a reasonable period of time, push that button again.
Else, email the civic body.
Copy that mail to the local or city newspaper.
You have a cell phone, you have a Net connected PC, you have a fax machine, you have a post card.
Use them to get involved in issues that affect us all.
These acts are simple and straight. And they can bear good fruit. Especially when you act on behalf of the community.