Herald: Sentinels: what an idea Sirji

Sentinels: what an idea Sirji

28 Jan 2019 05:49am IST

Report by
Blaise Costabir

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28 Jan 2019 05:49am IST

Report by
Blaise Costabir

Even as I began writing this column, WhatsApp was abuzz with reports of Alfred Almeida being attacked and his car overturned by an unruly mob. His "crime"; he was clicking pictures of traffic offenders so as to be able to report them under the new traffic sentinel scheme launched by the Goa police, the brain child of DGP Muktesh Chander a tech savvy cop.

Hope that by the time you read this, the police would have acted effectively against the mobsters and given the correct signal that one cannot take the law in their hands. Hope also makes one expect that the usual political pressure which normally saves such apologies for human beings from being punished, does not make its presence felt.

The NCP and the Congress have already shown this scheme the red card. Being birds of the same feather and aspirants to Government formation, one would have expected better. 

Why would they oppose a project which has the potential to bring about much need discipline in our road etiquette or rather lack of it. One reason can be ignorance and the other more compelling reason could be the fact that politicians look at everything through the eyes of their voters, with no consideration to what Goa/India needs. 

So they would have concluded there are more chances of sentinels being lesser than those caught on camera, therefore better to support wrong doers. I do hope better sense prevails and they correct their position sooner than later.

The Traffic Sentinel scheme allows concerned citizens to sign up and assist the police in catching traffic offenders. The app is slick and easy to navigate. It requires your bank details and PAN no. So no fake identities allowed. One also has to pledge not to doctor/photoshop a situation and importantly one agrees to abide by traffic rules at all times. The bank account details are required as there is a reward scheme and the traffic department shares a small portion of the fine collected with the sentinel as a reward. 

Once logged in, to report an offence one needs to open the app and click a picture or video only through the app. The offending vehicle number has to be added and the type of offence, riding without helmet, etc. It is GPS enabled so it registers location and only works in Goa. You have to use your own mobile. Leaders of the political parties should study the scheme before shooting their mouths off.

The picture is then processed by the traffic cell and if found correct, the offender gets a ticket by post. The sentinel is awarded points which then get converted to reward money. This seems to be bothering the opponents of the scheme. Apparently it has given rise to professional sentinels. Why not if they have the time?

This scheme appears to be regularising the “Kabri system” that the police use informally to gather information on criminal activities. It has many positives. It is transparent and is based on photographic evidence. It involves the general public and since someone is watching, traffic offenders are more likely to behave and thus prevent accidents and save lives. 

This works 24x7 and not just 9 to 5 with a lunch break. The added advantage is the fact that once a challan is issued, it has to be paid. No paying a bribe to the cop standing under a tree and getting away. The exchequer benefits directly. If there are drawbacks, please point them out, discuss, argue but do not attack those who have signed up as sentinels.

One aspiring politician says the scheme is a violation of human rights. The logic is not immediately visible nor whose rights are violated, is it the cops who were taking a bribe to let you off, or the people who lose lives or are injured due to irresponsible road etiquette? 

If one is looking for a cause, why not go after the anti sedition law, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. A section being used today to muffle any voice of dissent against the government of the day. As if to say, opposing some governmental policy means opposing the idea of India. This will make more impact and also be useful.

Another good way to oppose the scheme as suggested by a FB user is too totally follow the rules. Then no sentinels are required. 

One suggestion to make it truly anonymous is to allow for an alias in the registration process, and one would only be identified by that alias. The other suggestion is this App should be adopted and modified by other government departments. We have many concerned citizens who really do not know who to contact when they see a gross violation occurring in front of them.

Municipal Sentinel: Garbage being dumped on the roads, or an illegal gadda coming up. 

Electricity Sentinel: Electricity being illegally tapped/street light not working.

PWD Sentinel: Illegal water connection or pipeline broken.

TCP Sentinel: Illegal filling/cutting or converting parking to shop, etc, the list can go on, only limited by imagination.

There are so many areas one sees helplessly every day. The authorities turn a blind eye either due to political patronage or due to the fact that they have been bribed. There will be no excuse for the higher ups to say they did not know or that the subordinates are inefficient. The violation will land right in the bosses lap. 

So instead of trying to close down the SENTINEL scheme, all political parties must promise to widen the net and strengthen the same. It must become part of their manifestos. This will then truly be Power to the People. Jai Hind.

(The author prefers to write rather than chat in a balcao)
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