When Ahmad Javed, the new Police Commissioner of Mumbai, used to be the Police Commissioner of Navi Mumbai which was not very long ago, he did something very simple which changed the face of policing in Navi Mumbai for as long as he was there. He asked for notice boards to be put up in every police station in Navi Mumbai with his mobile number on it.
What is the big deal, you may ask. especially when the mobile numbers of many police officers are available on the web. Let me tell you it was a big deal, a very big deal.
On this board he had arranged for display at every police station were the mobile numbers of three people. The message on the notice board exhorted people who were unhappy with the service at the police station to call any of the three officers whose numbers were displayed. The first was that of the Station in Charge. The second was that of the Deputy Commissioner of Police who had supervisory responsibilities over the police station. The third was his.
The number of the Commissioner that was displayed on the Board was the number he used in his official capacity, it was the phone which he answered personally. It was not a phone that he would leave with an assistant with instructions to take messages. If he was in a meeting and could not take a call, he would call back.
I remember asking him about whether making his number available freely made his life difficult. He told me that he used to be bombarded with calls in the first month but that the calls were reduced to a trickle within a couple of months. Citizens did not feel a need to call as the mere possibility that a call could happen was enough to keep the station cops on good behaviour.
Across Navi Mumbai, the police constabulary was transformed. On duty cops in police stations knew that if they harassed an innocent citizen or if they did some hanky panky, the Commissioner would get to know. And that was enough to knock cops into shape. I am sure some mischief went on, but the transformation was truly startling.
What are your plans for Mumbai, Mr Commissioner ?