Snatchers have free run of Dwarka

Vijaita Singh, Hindustan Times

The colour just went out of Poonam Karkara’s life one day. Instead of bright salwar-kameez ensembles, she now steps out of home in grey tracksuits.

Karkara’s life-altering moment arrived in the form of two motorcycle-borne snatchers, a couple of months ago. The Sector 6 resident and her little son were returning home in a cycle-rickshaw after shopping for clothes. Karkara had placed her money in the shopping bag.

In a flash, the men were upon them. They snatched the bag and sped out of sight before Karkara could raise an alarm.
Since that day, the 36-year-old housewife makes it a point to step out of home in a tracksuit. That way, at least her phone and money are safely tucked away inside pockets.

“After that incident, I don’t carry my bag to the market. If I go out, I wear a tracksuit so that I can keep my mobile phone and money in its pocket. And I don’t wear jewellery anymore,” said Karkara.

Her eyes still well up at the thought of what could have happened that day. “My little son was with me in the rickshaw. What if they had taken him away?”

When HT met Karkara, she was still dressed in her grey Adidas tracksuit, as she was returning from the nearby market.

Police See No Evil
In Dwarka, touted as the largest sub-city of Asia and Delhi’s modern face, everybody — unless they are a part of the police force — knows somebody who has been a victim of snatchers.

Going by police records, though, only 13 cases of snatching had occurred in the sub-city till May 31 this year. However, HT met 14 other Dwarka residents, who claimed they had been robbed or mugged during the same period but the police had not registered their complaints.
Even in Karkara’s case, the police did not show up despite repeated calls. No case was registered.
“When we go to the police, they do not register cases. They ask our women to wear less jewellery. Dwarka boasts of multi-storey buildings and smooth, wide roads, yet the women don’t feel safe here anymore. They go out burdened with the fear of someone pouncing on them from behind for their bag and jewellery,” said MK Gupta, member of Dwarka Forum, a residents’ welfare association.

While residents say cases of snatching are underreported, the police have a ready defence. They blame Dwarka’s wide roads and lack of speed-breakers for the snatchers’ free run.

“Almost all roads in Dwarka are laid out at right angles. There are no speed-breakers. Even if we put up a picket on one side of the road, there are so many other escape routes for the culprits,” said K Jagadeshan, deputy commissioner of police (southwest).

Jagadeshan said most of the snatchers come from the poorer neighbourhoods like Bindapur and Palam surrounding Dwarka. “Many of them are first-time offenders.”
‘We will pull up officers who do not lodge cases’

Interview with Ajay Kashyap, Joint Commissioner of Police (southern range)

Cases of snatching and mugging are the order of the day in Dwarka. Residents say police discourage them from registering cases. Your comment?
If policemen are found not registering cases, we would take strict departmental action against them.

What are the measures Delhi Police has taken to check crime in the area?
We have intensified beat patrolling in Dwarka. We initiated a drive to catch motorcyclists involved in acts of snatching.

Is one police station enough for such a vast area?
proposal to set up a new police station is under consideration. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been apprised of it, and the new police station will be functional soon.

What is the police strength at Dwarka police station?
Dwarka has a sanctioned strength of 140 policemen, but the present strength stands at 105.

How many police control room vans patrol the area?
Eleven PCR vans patrol the area; there is a proposal to get more vans.

What are the measures of beat patrolling and basic policing adopted in the area?
Each beat is patrolled by a head constable and two constables, who are supervised by an assistant sub-inspector or more senior officer. They report to the station house officer.

Any message to instill a sense of confidence in the public?
Policemen have not been instructed to avoid registering cases, to keep the crime graph under control. We firmly believe in free and fair registration of cases.

(Ajay Kashyap spoke to Vijaita Singh)

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