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Let a thousand Dhobles bloom

by Anant Rangaswami  Jul 9, 2012 14:05 IST

#Mumbai Police   #OnOurMind   #Vasant Dhoble  

When Mumbai’s assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble began his crackdown on underage drinking and on pubs and restaurants flouting norms, the anti- moral police squad was up in arms, protesting every raid and every action in every raid he conducted.

No body seemed to pause and accept was that all that Dhoble was doing was enforcing the laws of the land – which, one presumes, is a perfect definition of his job role.

There’s certainly a case to be made that many of the laws that Dhoble is enforcing are outdated and archaic – but that’s got nothing to do with Dhoble. If citizens are unhappy with the laws, they need to figure out a way to change them.

We need more people like Vasant Dhoble because we can't discipline ourselves.

To many, Dhoble is doing just fine. If the immediate reaction to Dhoble was just brickbats, the calmer and more delayed reaction has been bouquets. “The support for crackdown on pubs, bars and nightclubs by Mumbai police ACP Vasant Dhoble has gained momentum, with citizens from eastern suburbs now coming forward to support him,” said The Times of India.

What Dhoble has brought in focus is the fact that a number of laws are being flouted by both outlets (such bars and pubs) and by consumers themselves. Ever since the crackdown by Dhoble, liqour permit sales have shot up and outlets are more wary of breaking laws.

The more Dhoble enforces the laws, the greater will be the compliance of the laws, Fundamentally, no one need fear Dhoble as long as laws are respected.

We’ve seen this earlier, in Mumbai, when, provoked by deaths due to driving under the influence of alcohol, the police got tough on drivers. If the trends are an indication, citizens are now aware – and are more compliant. The cases of drunken driving are coming down.

If the crackdown on drunken driving and on legal drinking are indicators, these crackdowns do much more good than harm – and that’s why we need more Dhobles – thousands more – and not no Dhoble.

We need Dhobles in every department of government. We need Dhobles to bring to book anyone who is illegally encroaching on land, we need Dhobles who crack down on illegal hawking and on illegal vendors, we need Dhobles to frighten those who steal electricity and water, we need Dhobles to enforce the simplest of traffic laws which are violated every minute of the day.

We need these Dhobles because we, as citizens, flout laws every day. We park in a no-parking zone, we drive the wrong way down a one-way road, we drink without a valid permit, we buy property which is not quite kosher.

And while we seem to gain, individually, when we break a law, it’s when the law-breaking is done by many – as is the case with traffic violations – we stand to lose and we outrage.

We’ve proven, sadly, that we cannot police ourselves.

And that’s why we need Dhoble. That’s why we need thousands of Dhobles.