Mohalla Committee

Increasing crime is a complex social problem.  The family, society, social and political leaders, police, magistrate, judiciary and prison are the institutions responsible for prevention of crime.  Unfortunately, police alone are held responsible for increasing crime.

Two constituents suffer with increasing crime.  The Public is the first to suffer.  They are terrorized with violence and their property is looted. Economic growth of society is stunted with increasing crime.  The second suffers are the police.  The long hours, constant physical and mental pressures create tremendous stress.  Public criticism is even more demoralizing.  This is why I think that the 2 real victims of crime should join hands to fight crime.  I implemented the Mohalla Committee scheme at Pune (Rural), Satara & Akola districts for this very purpose which was a suitably modified model of the Bhivandi Mohalla Committee.

The committee consisting of members of the public chosen by the police to work towards the security and overall development of their ward or village is called the ‘Mohalla Committee’.

The seed of this idea is in the Panchayat system prevalent in my village during my childhood.  Back then nobody in my village knocked at the doors of the Police Station or the Courts.  All disputes were dealt with at the village elders’ meeting.  Even the development issues were decided at this meeting. The Mohalla Committee Scheme that I have developed is based on this tried and tested Panchayat system, the social sciences and modern administrative principles.

The following points were considered in forming Mohalla committees:-

  1. Each village had Mohalla Committee.
    a) For larger villages, there was a separate committee for every extra population of 5000.
    b) In cities there was one committee per 10,000 people.
  2. Every Mohalla committee was named after the mohalla e.g. Morgaon Mohalla committee at Morgaon; Shivaji Nagar Mohalla Committee at Shivaji Nagar.
  3. A minimum of 100 persons were selected for the Mohalla committee .The reason for selecting such a large number was that very few persons have the commitment, maturity and versatility necessary to solve problems.  Though they may lack formal education it is only the members with the above qualities who really work in the Mohalla committee with enthusiasm.
  4. In villages with Hindu - Muslim or High Class - dalit conflicts, 50 persons from each of these sections were selected.
    (a) Committee membership was open to members of all political parties
    (b) Known anti-socials or rabid religious fundamentalists were kept away from the committee.
  5. Farmers, farm hands, workers, coolies, artisans, dalits, adivasees, truck/tempo/rickshaw drivers, teachers, professors, shopkeepers, doctors, lawyers residing in that Mohalla were given preference for membership.
  6. A minimum of five women from each caste/community were taken in the committee.  Local press reporters were included.
  7. Police officers of the rank of head constable were appointed as chief of the committee helped by the constable from that sector who worked as the deputy chief of the committee.
  8. At least one meeting of the committee was held per month.  During times of social unrest or tension the meeting was held every week.
  9. The meeting was held in the village or Mohalla itself. It could be the government chavadi, Gram Panchayat office, school building, temple, mosque, public inn, etc. Any public place would do.  However the meeting was never held at a private place.
  10. The date and time of the meeting was announced in advance.  As far as possible the meeting was held in the evening after finishing the day’s work at the farm.  Non-member villagers were welcome to attend the meeting.
  11. Every meeting was presided over by the head constable or, in his absence, by a constable.  No other member was permitted to preside over the meeting for such a person may not be acceptable to all members.  There was also a risk of the person misusing his position for personal or political gain.
  12. A night patrolling squad was formed for each Mohalla Committee area which kept vigil under the guidance of the Police Patil and Kotwal.
  13. The Mohalla Committee Chairman Head constable or constable would keep a tab on the working of these night patrol squads.
  14. All non-cognizable cases, applications, civil disputes were brought before the Mohalla committees for resolution of the dispute through mutually acceptable compromise.  Even some cognizable offences like atrocities on daughter-in-laws were handled by the Mohalla committees.
  15. A separate register for each Mohalla committee was maintained.  The names, age, occupation, phone numbers of the members were entered in the register which the members signed at the meeting. 
  16. In case any member could not attend the meeting a constable went to his residence to obtain his signature.  This strengthened emotional bond between the police and the members.  This exercise also made the member a sympathizer of the police forever.
  17. The attendance of the members is very large in the initial phase.  It however tapers off with passage of time.  This is the usual experience; there is no reason to get disheartened by this low attendance.  If the meetings are regular inspite of low attendance, it does make a difference during disturbed conditions.
  18. The establishment of Mohalla committees in all villages helped in reducing insecurity arising from the robberies, dacoities and feuds.
  19. The frequent meetings of the police & the people in Mohalla committees created public trust in the police.  They started informing the police about the criminals and came forward boldly to help the police.  This was the experience at Bhivandi, Pune, Satara and Akola.
  20. The Mohalla Committee chairman police head constable and constable started helping the people with the problems concerning other departments of the government as well.
  21. Due to the political and caste rivalries in the petty disputes in the villages led to tensions & confrontations.  This rift retarded the development of the village.  After settling these disputes in the Mohalla Committee, the villagers concentrated on their development.
  22. The experience at Bhivandi, Pune, Satara, Akola proved that Mohalla Committee creates a forum for establishment of peace & harmony in the villages.  The collective strength of the villagers gets channelised for constructive work.

 

The Philosophy of Mohalla committee

  1. People from all walks of life are represented in the Mohalla committee.  All representatives enjoy equal status and powers as members without discrimination on the lines of money, power, caste, creed or class.  Once on a single platform, the elite steps down a bit and the commoner or lowly placed step up a bit to come together.  Dalits & high castes, radicals & milds, leftists and rightists, Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor, men and women all participate as equals.  And because of this the Mohalla Committee is also multifaceted.  Everybody gets an opportunity to understand each other. Other groups, bodies and organizations can also join the Mohalla Committees.
  2. It is no mean task to face the public.  Policemen as Mohalla committee chairmen or vice chairman had to face the people every month  & solve their problems.  Elected representatives may not face the voters until the next elections but the Policemen had to face them every month.  Promises made in the previous meetings had to be redeemed.  This constant accountability to the people is indeed a revolutionary step.
  3. Mohalla Committee appears to be a very simple elementary concept.  However it is a very deep rooted fundamental scheme with far reaching effects.  Consistency was maintained in the implementation of the scheme.  This had a powerful and healthy effect on policing.
  4. In the initial phase, some villages were not convinced about the need of the Mohalla Committee. They argued that their village had been totally free from crime or feuds for years. This reasoning is faulty.  Where two persons stay together, conflict cannot be avoided forever.  Then why wait for crime to take place?  You cannot start digging a well after getting thirsty.  No stable society is ever free from conflict. It is therefore imperative to establish the Mohalla Committee straight way.
  5. Mohalla Committees blunt the edges of mob psychology.  The mob does not straight away take to violence.
  6. Mutual discussion is a very effective method for changing the attitudes of people.  The discussions in Mohalla committee helped in shaping the attitudes of the police and the people.  The discussions in the work improvement committees (quality circles) helped in changing the attitudes of both the senior and the junior police officers.
  7. Very few people come in direct contact with the police station.  Those who get bad treatment go on criticizing the entire police department.  People are misled by such propaganda.  Rest of the people form their opinion about the police department without actual experience.  Policemen know that the public evaluates their performance under this general prejudice rather than actual performance, as has been borne out by surveys. Mohalla Committees help in removing this prejudice and improve the police image.
  8. In normal policing the lower rank policemen do not get any recognition or respect.  But as the Chairman or deputy chairman of the Mohalla Committee, they get recognition, honor and respect which in turn results in increased self esteem, more enthusiasm and better performance.  A self-accelerating process is established.
  9. The Mohalla Committee has been so structured that every policeman regards his work as a personal responsibility.  An armed robbery has taken place in Pune (Rural) District.  I met the injured victims at the village and asked them if the policemen visited their village regularly.  Their reply was gladdening.  They said, “Our village has a Mohalla Committee.  The police regularly visit our village and hold meetings. Our Mohalla Committee had arranged a Diwali festival get-together at 7 PM.  It was raining heavily and we slept off after waiting for the police.  They finally turned up at 11 PM.  Fully drenched, their clothes were soiled by mud. It was very late, but they did turn up for the meeting.”
  10. Effective communication is taught and learned through the Mohalla committee.  The principles of good communication and the principles that make a good Mohalla committee are the same.  And the principles of a good Mohalla committee are the precise rules for the maintenance of peace.
  11. The Mohalla committee is so evolved that individually, members have minimal authority.  Committee leaders too have minimum authority.  The emphasis is on increasing mutual goodwill, understanding and friendship between the members.  Opening up the lines of communication between the members is considered of prime importance.
  12. Misplaced apprehensions are often the cause of communal disharmony.  Miscommunication between Hindus and Muslims was the root cause of the riots at Bhivandi.  Mohalla Committees were established to ensure dialogue between communities.
  13. Change is an important aspect of human nature.  The change may be for the better, or it may be for the worse.  If the change is for the better different communities live in harmony and if it is for the worse there is communal discord.  Mohalla committees have proved to be a vehicle of change for the better.  Mohalla committee makes its members forget old and perverted prejudices that are ingrained during one’s upbringing and bitter memories of the past.  It makes them come together to live in harmony.
  14. In a way, there was hardly any philosophical base for the Mohalla committees in Bhivandi.  However, there was a definite firm and united commitment to avoid any recurrence of the riots.
  15. A lot of the members of the Mohalla Committee in Bhivandi were the ones who had been shaken by the riots.  Hindus & Muslims were scared of each other.  The open lines of communication in the Mohalla committees enabled an exchange of thoughts and ideas.  It brought about awareness and appreciation of the good qualities of the other members.  What a lone person or even the whole police force could never achieve was achieved by this dialogue.  There is an old adage that says, “The village can do what the king can never do”.
  16. The verdicts delivered by the Mohalla committee in local matters are not by a single person.  It is a consensus of all the members.  Hence it is always more proximal to the truth. The verdict of the Mohalla committee is superior to the decision of even a full bench of the Supreme Court.
  17. According to renowned sociologist Powel Fiere if the powerless are empowered through an institution, they strengthen that institution.  The chairman and deputy chairmen of the Mohalla committee are policemen of the lowest rank and so are most of the members.  When the powerless are given the means and opportunity to change their lot, they really strengthen the institution.  Unless & until the smothered voice of the lowest policeman finds utterance the police force will never be modernized.  Mohalla committee gives him a voice.  He starts thinking about development of his self and development of the society.
  18. Social pressure is a powerful weapon.  The problem of atrocities on women should be tacked at the village level itself.  All the logical arguments, positive & negative inducement in the world cannot influence an oppressor as much as the local social pressure can.  The social conflicts get effectively resolved.  This social pressure makes the working of the Mohalla committee very effective.  Since the present criminal justice system is ineffective, social pressure alone can tackle the village crime and hooliganism.
  19. The police started discussing development issues of the village in the Mohalla Committee meetings and they participated in development schemes.  This earned them the support of the public.
  20. Socialization of the police officers, policemen and the people reduced the need for vigilance over the police.  The economic exploitation of the people by the police got checked.  This was observed all over Pune district.
  21. Mohalla committees have solved numerous problems.  It saved Bhivandi from a recurrence of the harrowing riots.  It made the dreaded dacoit Jwalashing surrender to us unconditionally.  Despite the arrest of the descendant of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Satara, public peace was maintained.  The Paradhi rehabilitation program was a success.  Thousands of issues rotting in the courts and pending with various departments were resolved. The Mohalla Committee scheme has been evolved and implemented with great imagination.  The scheme is not complicated.  There are no administration hassles.  It has no budget nor are any contributions required.  The committee does not have its own office.  No building is earmarked for it.  No intellectual or educational qualifications are prescribed.  No extra manpower is needed.  No new legislation is necessary to evolve and run the scheme.
  22. Development of villages is the development of India.  Mohalla committee is by far the best scheme for the development of the villages.  If the government undertakes social development through the Mohalla committee many problems could be solved.