Sarfaraz Sheikh is a techie, as the term goes, who, over the past year, has come to be a good friend, even with his being just about half my age. I first got to know him through his posts in the mailing list of our Save Koramangala group. Later, common interests brought us together. I have always marveled at his resourcefulness.
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Generally, it’s people of my age group who bother with civic issues. But, that’s beginning to change, personified by the likes of Sarfy (as he is commonly known), and perhaps that’s going to make the difference in future.
About a month back, Sarfy invited the group members to take a look at his blog posting, with the teaser "Hoysala in Koramangala is used for all the wrong reasons. Police folks go on a ride collecting bribes – hafta". And the blog read:
- I was on my daily dinner routine. Happened to see this on-duty police person walking out of his official patrol van called ‘Hoysala’. He walked up to the cashier of this local restaurant, grabbed some money, and was matter-of-factly walking back. Not that this was the first time I saw such a thing – but, I don’t know what became of me (perhaps Bollywood effect?). I looked him in the eye and gestured to him asking him what he was up to.
- He just walked off with a ‘who-the-hell-are-you?’ grin on his face. I got a bit miffed, again in true self-righteous Bollywood ishtyle.
- I picked up my phone, dialed 100 (ironic) and there was this English-speaking lady who greeted me. The tone was surprisingly very pleasant, a feature we don’t quite associate with anything belonging to the government/state.
- I felt a sudden rush of power and courage. I stood my ground. Made a note of the route number as well as the vehicle number, gave it to the lady on the phone. Both men disappeared into thin air.
- I was assured that the message had been conveyed to the concerned authorities and appropriate action will be taken. Assuming there’d be a system, I asked for a complaint number, the computer wasn’t working. On request and insistence, I was given the mobile number of the city Police Commissioner. Sigh! His phone was switched off.
Chai-paani is something we are oh-so familiar with. Haven’t we even had a good laugh at its mention?
A few days later, he posted a mail reading as below:
- Interesting progress – for whatever little it’s worth.
- I had a chat with the Commissioner’s PA – he had me speak with a certain gentleman called Somendra Mukherjee (Later, I learnt that it was the DCP, South-East).
- Mr Mukherjee made a note of the Hoysala route number – gave me his cell number, and has asked me to call him if and when I see it again – so that he could hop over and catch them ‘red handed’.
Another member shared his experience thus:
- A similar thing happened on Friday evening, March 09, front of HDFC bank. The men in uniform have a small boy who goes about collecting money on their behalf from all the vendors sitting on the foot path, as also the lame security guard and the man in the skull cap who (illegally) collect parking fees on the stretch in front of the Vodafone shop.
A day later, Sarfy came back with:
- Since this was a daily affair, and in full public view, I didn’t have to wait long. I called up Mr Mukherjee and made him speak with the two officers on the spot – this time on a ‘Cheetah’, not the customary Hoysala.
- Mr Mukherjee asked me to come to his office and lodge a written complaint giving all details including the Hoysala and Cheetah numbers – which I hesitatingly did – even though I got plenty of (morbid) warnings from well wishers and friends.
- The officers, I was told, will be suspended, and charge-sheets issued against them. Not that I am feeling self-righteously great about it, but a teeny weeny sense of achievement indeed.
Mr Mukherjee followed it up with this mail to Sarfy:
- Dear Mr Sarfaraz Sheikh,
- Good to see someone among the public is still awake and raises his concern for a cause, which actually is all of ours. As a matter of fact, let me congratulate you and inform you that bacause of your complaint, I have shifted all the staff engaged with the Hoysala and Cheetah duties out of such duties and have also initiated disciplinary action against them so that they are punished for their deeds. In fact, I took this opportunity to alert and warn all other Police Stations of this division, and asked the respective Inspectors to change the staff who need to be pulled out of such duties. Once again, Well done, Keep it up.
- Best Wishes, Soumendu Mukherjee, IPS.
Let Sarfy’s and Mr Mukherjee’s tribe increase, is all I would like to add.
P.S: Sarfy sent me an SMS today:
- Something very amusing happened just now. Two policemen were collecting free food. I asked the person at the counter to give them the bill. Both of them got scared and ran away. I think Mr Mukherjee has given these guys a piece of his mind.