New Delhi: The Delhi Police, already reeling from a severe staff crunch, has been additionally tasked with controlling several civic menace offences and the police officials have started complaining that this has been impacting their primary duty of preventing crimes and ensuring law and order in the city.

On the condition of anonymity, a Delhi Police official told The Sunday Guardian: “The police force in Delhi is already facing a shortage of constables and Inspectors. In such a situation, we are asked by the Delhi government and civic bodies to curb civic menaces. This is not the primary role of the police, the police is there to prevent crime, investigate crimes and ensure law and order.”

The officer further said that the Delhi government should induct civic volunteers who should be given the power to prosecute for civic offences and the police should be left alone to ensure law and order and prevention of crimes.

The Delhi Police has a sanctioned strength of 95,564 police personnel out of which 10,481 positions are vacant and most of these positions are from the level of constabulary and inspectors.

The Delhi Police has been tasked with curbing public smoking in and around the city and have been instructed to slap a fine of Rs 200 on people who have been found to be smoking in public places under the COPTA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act). Apart from this, the Delhi Police has also been tasked to ensure that street vendors are not vending on the roads—at some areas, police has also been tasked to ensure that public urination is curbed, among many such other civic offences.

A police officer tasked with imposing fine on public smokers in Connaught Place in Central Delhi told this correspondent, “At least five constables from the Connaught Place police station have been deputed to prosecute public smokers and there are thousands of smokers in Connaught Place. We can catch only a few. Moreover, while catching smokers, some crimes like snatching and pick-pocketing happen right under our nose and then everyone blames the Delhi Police.”

There has been more than 50 incidents of pick-pockets in Connaught Place in the last two days of the Dilli Ki Diwali festival, along with an incident of an accident due to negligent and rash driving near the Ranjeet Singh flyover at Barakhamba Road where two persons lost their lives.

The police officer quoted above said, “If the police force is diverted towards tackling civic offences, how will we be able to prevent crimes like pick pocketing and snatching? We have limited force and if the government wants to implement these laws (anti-smoking), they should induct a civic force to do it. We are also fed up with this.”

There are more than 50 cigarette vendors in Connaught Place and every day, thousands of people smoke in public places, but only a few are caught and fined due to the lack of a strong force present in the city to tackle such a menace.

Another police officer from Delhi said, “We are given a target of 40-50 challans every day and once that is completed, we leave as we also have to do our other duties as some of us are investigating some cases. Some have to appear in courts, some have to be in the police station. We cannot devote all our time on controlling civic offences.”

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