What is dearer: A mo­bile or peace of mind?

Gulf News - - Opinion -

Iwas star­tled when my friend VG gave me this piece of ad­vice, ‘‘If ever you lose your mo­bile phone do not take your com­plaint to the po­lice. Not only you may never be able to re­trieve it, you may land your­self in dif­fi­culty. So, just for­get about it and qui­etly buy another one’’.

‘‘Are you se­ri­ous?’’ I asked him to make sure that I had heard him cor­rectly. “Yeah, I am,’’ he re­torted quickly. Asked the rea­son for such ‘sane’ ad­vice, he nar­rated his ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter he lost his smart phone. Be­ing a law abid­ing cit­i­zen, VG drove to the po­lice sta­tion and gave vent to his ire over the theft of his “lovely” mo­bile phone. He was softly ad­vised not to call it theft/pinch­ing (ob­vi­ously be­cause that would add one more to the cases of crime in the area). ‘’Say, it slipped out of your pocket some­where or you mis­placed it, ’’ VG was po­litely told.

How­ever, my friend ar­gued it out and got a case of theft reg­is­tered. And that her­alded his woes. In ad­di­tion to tele­phonic in­quiries, ev­ery now and then some cop would drop in at his abode even at odd hours as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion process. In a coun­try where ar­rival of even well-in­ten­tioned po­lice­man at a house for some good rea­son raises eye­brows and elic­its all kinds of un­com­fort­able queries in the neigh­bour­hood, the pur­ported in­ves­ti­ga­tion started telling on his nerves.

He had had a sur­feit of it, yet he took it sport­ingly. VG drew sat­is­fac­tion from the fact that as a con­sci­en­tious lawabid­ing cit­i­zen he had done his duty by re­port­ing the loss, al­beit a mi­nor one. But in his calmer mo­ments, it dawned upon him that re­triev­ing the smart phone would be well nigh im­pos­si­ble in a place where th­ese pocket size gad­gets out­num­ber the pop­u­la­tion.

It is a well known fact that in this age of cell phone revo­lu­tion, prac­ti­cally ev­ery per­son, ir­re­spec­tive of his so­cial sta­tus, car­ries a mo­bile phone to­day. And many peo­ple own more than one. There would be no fam­ily where the hus­band, wife and kids do not have their own phone or phones. Try to es­ti­mate the num­ber of mo­bile phones in use and your head will start reel­ing.

To be fair to the po­lice force, in such a sce­nario, find­ing a stolen mo­bile would be as haz­ardous as look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack. While IT (in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy) and its by-prod­ucts have come as a boon, they have un­doubt­edly their bane­ful as­pects also. With­out fur­ther stray­ing away from the theme, I may point out that my friend VG fi­nally de­cided to for­get about his smart phone and like­wise wanted the cops to for­get about the ‘theft’. He took back his com­plaint say­ing he had mis­placed it and found it and that now he had no is­sue. That brought the mat­ter to an end. The day­time and oc­ca­sion­ally noc­tur­nal vis­its by the man in khaki stopped. Both sides heaved a sigh of re­lief. VG put the lid on the is­sue by ac­quir­ing a new mo­bile and buy­ing peace for him­self.

The hard fact re­mains that the ex­ist­ing po­lice force is far too in­ad­e­quate to serve the large pop­u­la­tion. It is true that the force is over­bur­dened and works un­der tremen­dous pres­sure. And ad­mit­tedly, as a large pop­u­la­tion means more crime, over­crowd­ing ev­ery­where, more ac­ci­dents, pro­longed in­ves­ti­ga­tion and years of lit­i­ga­tion, I don’t see the light at the end of the tun­nel in the near fu­ture.

Things could have be­come a bit easy but for the fact that the po­lit­i­cal class, which could make the scanty po­lice force avail­able for the peo­ple whom it claims to serve, is it­self ex­ten­sively util­is­ing the force for imag­ined threats. It is more a sta­tus sym­bol. A small time politi­cian of­ten gets three to six or more cops to give him cover to im­press on­look­ers.

There is plenty of talk of end­ing the VIP cul­ture but it is not seen on the ground. At many places there is ban on red and blue bea­con lights on the au­to­mo­biles that gave to the per­son sit­ting in­side a false or in­flated sense of be­ing a VIP. To­day, even the last man stand­ing in the queue of VIPs seems to be squirm­ing on hav­ing lost that blue or red bea­con.

The top of­fi­cials of the Bri­tish Raj who ruled us and the feu­dal lords, za­min­dars, nawabs, ra­jahs and ma­hara­jahs of yesteryears have gone but the legacy they have left has coloured our think­ing and vi­sion so much that we are still un­able to come out of it. The­o­ret­i­cally, we are all equals but in prac­tice we are not. There is lot of talk of en­sur­ing a caste­less so­ci­ety and re­mov­ing eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties but in prac­tice we are only per­pet­u­at­ing and heav­ily de­pend­ing on caste sys­tem in ev­ery re­spect and do­ing lit­tle to nar­row down eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties.

Lalit Raizada is a jour­nal­ist based in In­dia.

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