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Saturday, December 1, 2001

These examples can be multiplied. Blaring loud speakers during festivals and in prayer places, deafening noise of bands and music at weddings and receptions, lumpen elements forcibly collecting money for some procession or other, a neighbourhood dog attacking a morning walker …… all are examples of public nuisances causing loss of sleep or money and undermining our quality of life. The normal practice in Hyderabad seems to be - look the other way because you too have been guilty of such behaviour; or shrug it off because you are a typical Indian with high tolerance; or if you are among the few exceptions, grumble to yourself since your earlier complaints fell on deaf ears; or if you happen to be part of that rare breed of ‘trouble-makers’ you persevere by writing letters and complaining to the local police.

Let’s first analyse why we face such problems in our community. In these cases of public nuisances, rule of law has collapsed. If you are rich or influential you can violate all laws. The poor and illiterate are unaware of any rules and regulations. In effect law and order is only for the books. But there are simple remedies. There can be a separate police force under city government that takes care of such instances. Community policing with a couple of cops in charge of each ward area, and supported by local volunteers can easily deal with these problems. They can be attached to a local small causes court that can give immediate relief by way of removing the public nuisance and paying a fair compensation to the victims.

There are practical answers to many urban problems. With increasing growth of the city, limited resources and relative economic stagnation, peace and order will be casualties. If small issues are not addressed swiftly, they will become big, festering sores, eventually leading to lawlessness. A lawless society depends on goondas and mafias to maintain order with grievous consequences. Civil society must act before it is too late.

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