FOR Delhi Police constables Rohitash Singh, 48, and Rajesh Kumar, 35, their workday begins and ends with a ride in the park. The two, posted at the Chanakyapuri Police Station, are part of the Delhi Police’s bicycle patrol unit, and are responsible for patrolling the 100-acre Buddha Jayanti Park in central Delhi twice a day — from 6 am to 9 am, and 5 pm to 8 pm. In between, they handle their routine work: managing VIP traffic movement and patrolling the roads on their motorcycles.
It’s in May that the Delhi Police introduced bicycle patrols in parks and neighbourhoods whose lanes are too narrow for PCR vans. The force is now planning to augment this with a 24-hour motorcycle patrol, complete with a GPS system. According to the plan, three motorcycles from each of the city’s 180 police stations will be assigned for this duty. The existing motorcycle patrolling is done at the level of individual police stations and happens only at night.
At 4.45 pm on a Tuesday, with 15 minutes still to go for the bicycle patrol to begin, Singh and Kumar park their yellow Bajaj Pulsar motorcycles outside the 100-acre Buddha Jayanti Park, and wheel out the Firefox cycles from inside the booth of a security guard at the park’s Gate No. 1.
The 100-acre park, popularly known as Buddha Garden, had earned notoriety after the 2003 gangrape of a woman for which four members of the President’s Bodyguard were convicted. Since then, the park, a popular hangout for young couples, has been deemed a “sensitive area” in police records.
It’s now 5.05 pm and Singh and Kumar, equipped with a 9 mm pistol each, begin a clockwork turn of the park. They start cycling on the walking track in the park, parallel to each other.
Singh and Kumar have been deployed at the ‘Buddha Beat Division’ for six months now. “Earlier, we conducted foot patrols, but the park is big and not very easy to cover. In fact, we can’t cover the entire park even on bicycles,” says Singh, easing the cycle off its stand and getting onto the seat.
Ever since the cycle patrol began, the two first report for duty at the Chanakyapuri police station at 6 am, where they make an entry — ‘cycle patrolling duty’ — in the chithha or duty roster, sign and set off.
Singh, a native of Rajasthan who joined the Delhi Police in 2006, lives with his 20-year-old son at the police quarters in Dwarka, southwest Delhi. “My eldest son is with me because he is doing his BSc from Delhi University. My wife and two other children live in our village in Rajasthan.”
Kumar, a native of Uttar Pradesh, joined the force four years ago and stays in the police barracks on the first floor of the police station. “There are about 12 of us in the barracks. I eat at the station canteen and go up only to sleep. So it’s like being on duty all the time,” says Kumar, who is now trailing Singh by a foot.
Nestling in a basket that hangs from the handlebar of their cycle are a diary and a parcha bara (information sheet). “Our job is to keep an eye out for any suspicious person and activity. If we meet someone who looks out of place, we make an entry in the diary with all his particulars. But even if there’s nothing suspicious, we note down the details in our diary,” says Singh.
A little ahead, they spot a man walking through the park’s overgrown bushes. The enquiries begin and the answers come forth: his name is Matadeen, a vegetable vendor, and he explains that he is on his way home — a slum near Karol Bagh — after delivering a few lemons to another vendor, Ravi, who sells drinking water outside the park.
Singh asks Matadeen his house number and he replies, “Sahib, jhuggion mein number kahan hota hai (Sir, where do houses in slums have numbers)?”
The two decide to let Matadeen go after noting down his name and other details.
The cycles set off again, past young couples who are distracted at the sight of the cycling cops. Singh says, “People spend some time together and then leave. We let them be. Humein bas yehi dekhna hai ki koi badmashi na ho (Our job is only to make sure that nobody is indulging in any mischievous activity).”
Next, they stop beside an elderly man. “Sir, namaste. Sab theek hai (Is everything fine)? The man leans into his walking stick and smiles. Kumar introduces the man —“Shiv Dutt Salwan… runs the Salwan Education Trust,” he says.
As they set off again, Singh says the bicycle patrol has its advantages — for one, they have more time to interact with people. “I have also lost some weight,” he says.
But there are problems too. “Our uniform gets soaked in sweat by the time we finish. We patrol in the morning and then work through the day in the sweat-drenched clothes. And then, come back in the evening,” says Singh, adding that it would help to have a separate uniform for the patrol.
Singh says that at times, people are amused at the sight of policemen on cycles. “The other day, a group of young people saw us cycling and shouted out, ‘Ab toh motorcycle le lo, Modiji desh badal rahe hain (About time you bought a motorcycle, Modi is changing the country),” he says.
As the two cycle on, a few regulars at the park snigger and say police don’t patrol the park as regularly as they claim to.
Around 7 pm, with the sun having set, most visitors have left. They spot two men near the Buddha statue at the centre of the park and make their enquiries. “They are Armymen,” Singh says, explaining that an Army camp is located adjacent to the park.
At 8 pm, a shrill whistle goes out — it’s the watchman signalling that it is time for the park to shut. Couples, groups of friends and solitary strollers emerge from different parts of the park and move towards Gate No. 1. “Our duty for the day ends here,” says Singh as the two park their bicycles in the guard booth room and lock them.