Archive for the ‘Pune’ Category

Whenever I drive to Mumbai, the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway or go to some institutes for lectures, I usually take the Kondhwa bypass to Katraj and then from there continue on the Bangalore bypass towards Mumbai. And every time I drive from there, I do so with extreme trepidation. I never know when a vehicle will cross me at one of the manmade openings on the road or when I’ll find someone popping over the hedge to cross the road.

Earlier, I would stay on the extreme left once I got onto the Katraj bypass, but now I can’t even do that because buses, six-seater autos and trucks, along with people, and parked on that side of the road. So I am forced to drive on the right. Then as one drives along the road and crosses the Bangalore bypass, one comes to a bridge which has six-seater autos parked right on the bridge, waiting for passengers. How does the Pune Traffic Police or even the Highway Police allow these vehicles to park there? No one knows.

This particular stretch of the highway has today become just another arterial road that people living in the city use to travel from home to office, and with the kind of sorry traffic sense Punekars are known for, I am not all surprised, that the accident that happened on June 11 on this stretch of road, did not happen earlier. Many Punekars use the city’s roads with contempt for traffic rules. They believe the rules are there, and if they can break it and keep breaking it, till they are either fined, knocked down, knock someone else down, kill someone or get killed (hopefully), the joyride at the expense of others will continue.

I was in Mumbai last weekend and the Pune effect has reached their too. I saw so many people jumping traffic signals it left me dismayed. I always thought Mumbaikars had more traffic sense than the average Indian, but I guess times change. I drove on the two-lane freeway to CST and marvelled at the ride I was having. And then on Tuesday I read about the drunk, female lawyer who drove on the wrong side of the freeway and killed two people. I didn’t think it was a dangerous stretch at all. I guess it is us humans who make it that. Just like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

However, coming back to the streets of the city, I realise why the police really can’t do much. Their own rules are messed up. I am sure, they would like to pick up a cane and use it at free will on traffic offenders. In the early days they did, but now with citizens’ rights groups and traffic rights group in the forefront ready to make a noise about anything and everything, the cops often find themselves functioning with their hands tied behind their backs. The non-imposition of the helmet rule is a good example.

While I understand the Pune Traffic Police is doing a difficult job, my problem with their functioning is that their focus is on how much money they can bring in to their coffers. When they announce in a press release that they have collected `7 crores from the city’s errant motorists and riders, my first thought is “That’s a lot of law-breakers in this city!”

The other day I parked my car in a lane where the only two ‘no-parking’ boards were supposedly on one side of either end of the road. For regulars who live on that road or have offices there, it’s easy to know that the road even has ‘odd’ and ‘even’ parking days. But what does a stranger do when he enters the lane and finds cars parked on both sides? Was I supposed to look for ‘no-parking’ board at the beginning of the road or worry about the car in front in bumper-to-bumper traffic? And it wasn’t as if I was the only one parked on that side of the road. I asked the chap who had locked my wheel where the ‘no-parking’ boards were and he pointed vaguely in both directions. Then I asked him why other cars parked near mine had been spared. He pretended he hadn’t heard. Putting up boards in places which won’t be noticed is a great way for the cops to make money. There is no point complaining that they are short-staffed. The public, at least those who believe in following the law, are not interested in listening to these excuses from the Pune Traffic Police.

Pune also has seven MLAs and I would like to know how many times they have spoken for the betterment of Pune? How many of them have spoken up in the Assembly and pushed for an adequately manned police force if they want it to be a better city? Politicians want to make Pune a smart city. I wonder if they even know what the term means. If the Pune Police with all the help from the city’s politicians can’t improve the traffic in the city, Pune won’t be a smart city just a smartass city!


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is about to fly into Pune for a bankers’ meet a few days from now and the roads all along the route are being spruced up. A fresh coat of paint here, a fresh roll of tar there and the hedges are being trimmed.

Pune is being made a Swachha city for the big day with the trash being pushed out of sight. The approach road to my place, which goes right past the venue, has suddenly got a cement patch with the dividers having appeared almost by magic. Funnily, the white dividers stop midway along the road almost as if the guy who was drawing it decided that it would go only as far as Mr Modi’s vision would permit!

More interestingly, traffic at intersections is being forced to stay behind the white line. For the Punekar who abhors traffic rules it must be doubly frustrating. But do not worry, the torture will only last a few days. And that is what this blog is about.

With due apologies to the much revered Lokmanya Tilak, many vehicle owners and pedestrians in Pune believe that breaking the law is their birthright! I consider myself a law abiding citizen when I am behind the wheel of a car or walking on the road. I don’t know if that also makes me stupid. There’s a huge number in the city that refuses to follow traffic rules and having lived in the city most of my life that should have become a part of my nature too by now. Thankfully, it has not.

The complete disregard for the law by the Punekar is appalling. They actually believe that they are within their rights to do so and no one, not even the police, can do a damn thing about it. I used to think that only in Delhi motorists honk to force you to cross the red light because they want to go. Today, I can honestly say that Pune has gone far ahead of the national capital in this aspect. Take any intersection, even in the cantonment, vehicle owners do not even slow down if they see a cop. They just speed through, and the cop looks on helplessly.

The pedestrian is not far behind. At the Swargate Bus stand crossing, probably the busiest in the city, there are at least four constables on duty, but not one stops  the pedestrian who brazenly strolls across even as the oncoming traffic begins to move. So while looking out for two-wheeler riders in the maze one has to dodge pedestrians as well. On the bridge that connects Tilak Road to Deccan Gymkhana, there is a wide footpath on either sie of the bridge, but people will still walk on the road. I’ve always wondered why. Can someone enlighten me? And these are not isolated examples.

And to add to the confusion, at times, is the Pune Traffic Police. In April 2012, the Supreme Court passed an order banning tinted glasses on car windows. The Pune Police then announced that they were going to “strictly implement” the ban. Of course, everything petered out after a few days of frenzied activity I later heard some convoluted explanation of percentage of tint or whatever and things eased off.

Suddenly two years later, they again announced that they were going to “strictly implement” the two-year old order. I finally decided to remove the film from my car instead of being hauled up by some enthusiastic traffic policeman who would insult me with “If senior journalists like you do this, what can we tell the common man?”. As I drove around looking for a dealer who would pull out the film I got stopped thrice. I was not fined because I told the cop that I was looking for a dealer for the very purpose. Two days after removing the film, I drove to Deccan Gymkhana and noticed the absence of any traffic policemen “strictly implementing” the law.

So my question is why does the Pune Police start something they either cannot do, or are unable to take to its logical conclusion? I understand that the decision is in pursuance of a Supreme Court ruling, so they should either take it to the logical end or stop wasting their and our time. It’s just like the crash helmet rule. Very few months it pops and the goes back on the shelf. They have launched various grand plans to improve the city’s traffic which after a week or so die a silent death.

I would be much happier if they threw up their hands and told the State government that there is nothing they can do unless they get the manpower and the infrastructure. I think the reason why ministers, MPs and MLAs never do anything is because they are never stuck in traffic, so they think everything is running just perfectly. So I hope and pray that one day the chief minister is in town and he gets stuck in a traffic jam on Jangli Maharaj Road or Tilak Road! Why the state government does not step in and help the Pune Traffic Police or for that matter police in every city, is a mystery to me. Pune has sent all its MLAs from the ruling party to the Vidhan Sabha. Can we expect something from them except homilies? Will Guardian Minister Girish Bapat do something>

Secondly, how is it that only the one class of people is caught? How about nailing the VIP and VVIP motorists driving those monster SUVs, Jaguars, Land Rovers, BMWs and Mercs? And let’s not forget the vehicles of politicians and the government officials. Have you see any policemen pulling up these motorists lately? Or are they exempt from the rule? So I see all those fancy cars zip around with pitch black film and I am left cursing my diligence!

But coming back to the prime minister’s visit, did it have to take that to force the Pune Traffic Police to make Punekars follow traffic rules? Before someone starts to think I am running down the traffic police, let me clarify, I have total respect for the people in khakhi. I know they are doing a difficult job because they are strapped for manpower and the number of vehicles is increasing at a scary rate which they have no control over.

When I read that Pune Traffic Police has collected quite a few crores as fines from erring vehicle owners for various offences, what it tells me apart from the obvious is that Pune is a city where law breakers seem to have a free run. They do not care about traffic rules and (more importantly) have no fear for the traffic policemen, who try valiantly to bring some sense into the madness – and fail.

So, in the end, it took a prime ministerial visit for the inept and slothful Pune Municipal Corporation to spring into action. Now if only this was done on a permanent basis! Maybe, Prime Minister Modi should come to Pune every other week and drive around the city for his viewing pleasure and see the mess unfolding before his very eyes!

I don't know the source of this picture, and will happily give them credit.  But it really puts in a nutshell the issue being discussed here.

I don’t know the source of this picture, and will happily give them credit. But it really puts in a nutshell the issue being discussed here.

So the Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol finally articulated what a lot of us have been saying for years – that Pune’s vehicle owners lack traffic sense and discipline. Earlier, we used to joke that Pune’s traffic has become so bad because of the influx of North Indians, especially motorists from Delhi. But that comment was made more in jest because the national capital has become everyone’s favourite punching bag when it comes to issues about crimes against women or even bad drivers.

However, for Pune’s top cop to make such a statement also mirrors the frustration of the police force in being unable to control the menace of rash driving. Just the other day, while discussing the future of the Buddh Formula 1 circuit in Noida, after F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone pulled out of India, my colleague at the sports desk was telling me about how the race track was doing just fine even without the annual jamboree. It seems the rich and famous from Delhi and the NCR pay out a fancy sum to race their Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis and other mean machines at the Buddh circuit because the roads in Delhi are really not the place where they can keep their foot down on the accelerator! Even there, one has to follow some rules.

But that is Delhi and we aren’t talking mean machines. We are talking about the citizens of Pune using the roads like it is their private racing track, with utter disregard for the law. That there has been a huge spurt in the number of vehicles – both of the two and four-wheeler kind – seen in the city, is obvious. The police chief said there were 12 lakh more vehicles in Pune as compared to Mumbai and everyday 931 vehicles are being added to that number. A few months ago I used to cover the distance of approximately 14 kms from my home to office in 30 to 40 minutes. Today the same distance takes me between 60 and 90 minutes. It’s surely not the state of the roads or the number if vehicles that are alone to blame. It is also the idiot on the road who believes traffic rules are meant for Martians and not Earthlings.

So while I still wait at the traffic intersection behind the zebra crossing, for the lights to turn green, I find others, driving past utterly contemptuous of the law. I also see Pune Police personnel looking on impassively, probably frustrated, because they also know there’s nothing much they can do except penalise someone. And then should they spend their time worrying about directing traffic on a busy intersection or waste time cutting a receipt? That is when you realise that it is not just the citizen, but even the law is an ass.

With nothing stricter than a few hundred rupees as a penalty for flouting traffic rules, no one really cares. Six hundred rupees is the maximum penalty and that is for not carrying valid insurance papers! For offences related to driving alone the fines range from 100 to 500 bucks. Sure you can go to jail for killing someone, but that is an extreme case and even then, it is a bailable offence. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out why vehicle owners use the roads the way they do. Hundred rupees is small change today for most people. It means a packet of cigarettes less that day or roughly a litre of petrol less. It’s manageable. Just yesterday I was reading that in PCMC the fines for erring vehicle owners are being upped to between Rs 1000 and Rs 5000. That’s a start.

What the Traffic Police in Pune should do instead is to confiscate not just the licence of the erring vehicle owner, but the vehicle as well and then make the offender travel across town to pay the fine.  For example, if the offence is committed at Swargate, the offender should be told to leave his vehicle at the nearest police station, travel to the RTO at Vishrantwadi or a place even further away to pay Rs 1000 as fine, and only then pick up his vehicle – at his own expense. If the offence is committed at Vishrantwadi tell the offender he or she has to pay a fine at some obscure RTO post or police station at the other end of town. And if that means you’re going to be late for a job interview, too bad…The next time you might think twice before breaking the law.

But are Pune’s errant vehicle owners alone to blame for this mess? At the same event on Wednesday, the police chief spoke about the use of crash helmets. He said there are more accidents in Pune than there are in Mumbai, but people refuse to wear helmets. How many police personnel do you see wearing helmets? I have often seen police vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road, and also ignore a red light. When the police department itself treats the law with such contempt, what do they expect the citizens to do?

Unfortunately, even our politicians who frame legislation are only worried about the impact such harsh laws could have on their vote-bank. Traffic safety and lives lost is not really their concern. It’s the guy who stands in line to vote who is their concern. After all, the dead can’t vote.

I have used a PMPML (or PMT as it was known earlier) once or twice since 1986. That was because I bought a two-wheeler and decided I didn’t wish to wait for a bus since my work timings were odd. I went to work when most people were coming back home and returned when people were fast asleep.

Then in 2003, I bought a car and my forays into a public transport bus were reduced even further. When I returned to Pune in 2005, I saw the rattle-traps that were being passed off as buses and decided I wouldn’t ever step into one again. I know lakhs of Puneites took those buses every day, but that was because they didn’t have an option. Well I did and I was going to exercise that option.

Here’s where I always wondered why people never objected to the manner in which the civic body forced people to accept what they got. There were new buses being inducted, but the city’s population was rising at four times the speed, and the PMT now PMPML just didn’t have the wherewithal to cope.

Today, Pune has just over five million people compared to Mumbai’s 20 million plus. Yet Pune has more vehicles per household than Mumbai. There were 23.13 lakh vehicles registered in Pune till October this year, of which 17.07 lakh were two-wheelers and 3.33 lakh were private cars. Yet, one-fifth of the five million citizens of Pune, use the approximately 1500 buses run by the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd or PMPML, everyday. The PMPML is, as of now, at least 1500 buses short of what it required to ferry passengers around the city.

It’s not like I am some fat cat who can afford to drive around 40-50 kms and burn around 300 bucks of fuel, every day. Only I know how much it pinches our monthly budget to end up over 8000 bucks in the red every month, to use my four-wheeler. I have often wondered, why there couldn’t be a better quality of buses, which were more point to point and with a higher frequency from wherever I stayed. Citizens in Bangalore, Delhi and elsewhere have the option, so why not those in Pune? If given a clean and comfortable option, more than half of the remaining four million, like me, would happily step into a PMPML bus, instead of using our own vehicles.

So when Sakal Times decided to highlight this issue and called for a Pune Bus Day on November 1, I don’t think anyone at our office expected the kind of response it received. At the risk of sounding cliched, the response was overwhelming. And unlike what the cynics are sneering about, NO political party is behind this, especially not the ‘Rashtrawadi’ ones, which is what some people are hinting at. Frankly, we aren’t a big enough newspaper for a political party latch on to us. Yes, political parties have realised the huge impact the movement is having and have now joined in. As a media vehicle we can’t tell them to lay off because one, they help to get the message across to their supporters and two, they will be the decision makers who will play a role n the city’s future.

You can sneer, snipe and jeer at the idea, that’s your prerogative. As a media, which is invariably, called cynical, it would have been natural for us to react the way you did. But the fact that lakhs of people from across the city have joined us, should tell you something. They can’t ALL be stupid – or cynical. They also know that things will not change in a day. But they are willing to make the effort. We are not saying that things will change dramatically in a day. It can’t and won’t. But isn’t it time, as citizens, we did something?

Look around you and tell me what you see. Power cuts, shutdowns, breakdowns, terrible roads, water shortages in one housing society after another; no water in some because builders have fleeced residents with promises they haven’t delivered on. And then where it hits us hardest, a public bus transport system, which is the lifeline of this city, that is unable to cope with the burgeoning passenger traffic. Let’s work to change it.

So, all we are asking citizens to do is travel by a bus on November 1, to send a message across to the city and state administration that Pune doesn’t want to become another dying city, which is where we are headed if we don’t do something. And, it doesn’t end on November 1. We intend to keep the pressure on the civic body to bring about the desired changes in not just the bus service, but about a whole lot of other issues plaguing the city.

I’ve spent a restless and disturbed 24 hours ever since I heard about the five-year-old Shubh Rawal being kidnapped and killed in Pune by 19-year-old Parminder Singh, for ransom, all because he thought he could buy a motorcycle from the ransom, which he aspired for. Sometimes I think television and films have really messed with our heads and our lives. I watch one of the Hindi serials on crime, which dramatises supposedly true incidents. You have to be demented to commit those crimes and think you could get away with it.

When we were discussing this in office, the editor commented about a sociologist who said it was an aspirational thing and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Which may be true to some extent, but whatever may be the sociological reasons being put forward for such crimes, to kill a five-year-old is the worst kind of crime one can commit – as bad as raping a minor or infant girl, or beating an infant senseless.

One is not talking about murders by adults, gangland killings, domestic violence or dowry-related cases, but crimes against infants and children who really have no way of even knowing what they are being subjected to and why, and more importantly, no way of fighting back. Just imagining a five-year-old being throttled is gruesome enough, so one can’t even think what the tot must have gone through even as his life ebbed away.

It’s a pity that in India we still send people to jail after they commit such crimes, since we don’t have a firing squad, child rapists and killers, should be hanged or locked up in solitary confinement and the key thrown away instead of a term in jail, from where they will walk free in 14 years. Yes, I know that homily about giving a criminal the opportunity to reform. Please, tell that to parents who lose their children to such mindless acts.

Then there are people like auto-rickshaw driver Umer Shaikh, who still believes that doing good to people is what he was sent here for.

The other day I heard about Shaikh at the office. He noticed a laptop and some property documents that had been left behind by a passenger in his auto-rickshaw. He could, quite easily, have walked away with the laptop. Instead, he went to the cops to hand in all the stuff. By a quirk of fate, the passenger also landed up at the same police station to report the loss and was delighted and very relieved to get his stuff back.

When we reported the story, the passenger thought the auto-rickshaw driver deserved more than just a thank you and wanted to gift the driver something. We called both, the passenger and the auto rickshaw driver to the Sakal Times office, where the grateful passenger handed over a little something to Shaikh. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered such a tale and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

When he was asked about the incident, the auto-rickshaw driver said, “even if I find a pen in my three-wheeler I start wondering who the owner could be and want to return it.” In today’s day and age, that there are still people like this around is heartwarming.

And then, I heard an absurd story about ‘aspirations’ among the rich! About how a city restaurateur found his brand new laptop missing from a table in the restaurant soon after he had bought it! Since he had CCTVs cameras installed everywhere he saw the person who had stolen it – a very well-to-do woman, and a frequent visitor to his restaurant! He called her up and told her that she had been caught stealing his laptop on the CCTVs cameras and that the cops had been informed. She promptly disconnected the phone, but after that her husband made some two dozen calls to the restaurateur!

I wonder if that’s a sociological or a psychological issue concerning the haves and the have nots? I wonder what this very affluent woman was ‘aspiring’ for!

This morning I was on my way to SIMC, Lavale, when at the intersection near the Bombay Engineering and Group (BEG) on Deccan College Road, I saw a young girl on a scooter with a look that really captured the mood of most people in the city. It was one of complete resignation, tiredness. This is what we have been reduced to.

Sometime earlier, in jest I told my wife that one of these days I was going to step out of the car with the crowbar I keep under the seat and smash the headlight of the car behind me if the driver honks. But there have been days I’ve actually felt like doing something drastic to the guy in the car behind mine! For example, I can’t understand why people honk in a traffic jam or a traffic intersection. When they honk do they expect that my car and I will like Mary Poppins and her damn umbrella, just rise in the air and fly over the traffic? Since I am not the violent type, all I do is swear at the guy from within the confines of my car, with the glass rolled up. My wife says she can’t see the point in swearing at someone who can’t hear a word! My reply is it makes me feel a lot better!!

But about a year ago I was at a railway crossing in the city waiting for the gates to go up. A car drove up behind mine and started honking. For a second I thought the gates had gone up, but it hadn’t. Then after a while the car honked again. This happened a few times after which I lost my cool. I stepped out, walked back the car and saw a lady inside, told her to roll down the window and gave her a mouthful. I then walked back to my car and waited for the gates to open. There was no more honking, not even when the gates were opened!

Take what happened last month and is continuing to date. Idea Cellular has problems with their billing system and I get calls every few days telling me that my calls will be blocked if I don’t pay my bill. I settled my bills on the 24th of last month! Every time I get a call from them I go through the whole exercise of explaining the issue and they say, “Ok Sir, the issue has been resolved.” Later in the day or the next day I get call from Idea Cellular telling me that my bills are still unpaid! Ideally (no pun intended) I would like to go over to the Idea office and shake them up, but after the time I spend travelling and lecturing, I am in no mood to argue with some idiotic billing clerk who doesn’t know her mobile phone from her lipstick.

Yesterday, as I drove to Lavale from Viman Nagar I saw smartly dressed policemen stationed every 400 metres all along the route. They were in attendance for the crown prince of Indian politics – Rahul Gandhi, who was in the city. Where do these uniformed gentry disappear to when it comes to manning the traffic when we need them and saving us from these torturous journeys?

And then there was the traffic cop who tried to levy a fine because I had parked my car in an area which he claimed was a ‘No Parking’ zone. I asked him to show me a ‘No Parking’ sign anywhere on the road and when he realised there wasn’t any he resorted to some old fashioned ‘dada-giri’. By then other car owners who were also about to be penalised gathered there and raised a hue and cry. The cop had to beat a hasty retreat. Not for one moment am I suggesting that Pune’s Traffic Police is not doing their job. I know they are terribly understaffed and underpaid. But if they enforced road discipline systematically instead of cosmetically, things would be so much better.

So coming back to the girl on the scooter…she was waiting for the light to turn green, her chin cupped in her palm, her elbow resting on the dashboard of her scooter. It was her face that caught my attention. For one so young she had a look that said “I’d rather be someplace else.” I understood that look completely. I travel three hours every day shuttling between the places I lecture. And it’s not the distance but the journey that frustrates me. If that isn’t bad enough, I have to listen to crap from the telephone man to the traffic cop, avoid errant drivers and lunatics on two wheelers, ans listen to neighbours squabbling over either the elevator in the building or the minimal rise in Society fees. It make me wonder how I still keep my sanity around me.

Driving to work this morning, I saw something that compelled me to write this blog – roadblocks put by the Pune Police. It’s just 24 days away from the events that shook Mumbai this time last year, but are we any wiser? After Kasab and his cohorts struck Mumbai on November 26, there was a flurry of announcements from everyone who mattered at both the State and the Centre.

We were told there would be an NSG force stationed at each metro; we would be modernising our police force; CCTVs would monitor movement at all major railway stations, airports and bus stations; we would have a trim and fit police force etc etc; But where are we on those assurances?

It’s taken the government one year to set up an NSG hub in Mumbai. I guess we should thank our neighbours for giving us a respite for a year! They’re probably waiting for us to set up all the other NSG hubs, before they hit us again, just to prove that we are still where we were on November 26, 2008.

Frankly, the Mumbai police didn’t cover itself in glory then. They showed they were incapable of repulsing an attack by a gang of trained and highly motivated assassins. I am not too confident that one year later, things are any different. Even after the flak they received for their collective paralysis on 26/11, neither the State Government nor the Mumbai Police or for that matter the Police force anywhere gives a damn about such serious issues. Instead, they are too busy playing politics over transfers and promotions. When will these petty minded men with their bloated egos realize that there are larger and more critical issues at hand?

See how the naxalites have been targeting SRPF personnel. My domestic help’s husband is a Sub Inspector in the SRPF and stationed in Gadchiroli. I can sense her fear every time she hears reports about an attack there. She has two teenage children and she wonders aloud how she’ll be able to bring them up. Her husband had a narrow escape a couple of months ago when a bus with SRPF personnel was blown up in Gadchiroli. He survived because his seniors ordered him to travel in the second bus, instead of the one which ended up being blown up. There must be thousands of policemen and their families who live with these fears every day. Is the State Government doing anything about assuaging these fears?

Every time you drive into a mall or multiplex in Pune what do you experience? There’s one guy with a metal detector who pushes it underneath the car. Does he even know what he’s looking for? Has he even been trained to spot explosives? Then he opens the boot, looks inside and shuts it! What’s the guarantee that a motorist isn’t carrying something deadly in the backseat or even tucked away under the front seat of the car?

Some days ago, there were reports in the Pune newspapers of a threat to Chabad House and the Synagogue from terrorists. The cops here sprang into action immediately and erected barricades at specific points on the approach roads to Koregaon Park, the city’s most upmarket locality, where Chabad House is located.

I use the road every day to get to my place of work and guess what I see – policemen relaxing at the barricades. I really wonder if these people are capable of protecting anyone. Last week driving past one such barricade, I saw two policewomen giggling and chatting with a couple of guys on a motorcycle. Vehicles were driving past and neither of the women even glanced in that direction. I deliberately slowed down my car as I reached the two women, but so engrossed were they in flirting with the two men that they hadn’t even noticed that a car had stopped right next to them. If another Kasab had rolled down his window and aimed an automatic rifle at them, they would have been dead in seconds. Some other cops were staring aimlessly into space, not even bothering to reprimand the women.

Again, this morning as I drove to work from another approach road, which is a lot less crowded than the main road, into Koregaon Park, I saw couple of pot-bellied cops relaxing in chairs reading newspapers oblivious of the fact that they were being keenly observed by a motorist. Are these the men who are going to protect us from fully armed terrorists? Now you know the reason for this post!