Kehar Singh finds his current job — flagging down cars violating the odd-even policy — considerably less risky than his last one. In his last posting in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh, then a hawaldar with the 13 Rajputana Rifles, had often found himself controlling angry mobs and quelling civilian protests.
Last month, the Delhi government had employed 400 ex-servicemen in the enforcement wing of its transport department. Singh and former defence personnel like him are helping the Delhi government enforce the second installment of the odd-even road rationing scheme.
On Friday, he was deployed outside New Delhi railway station, where he and two other ex-servicemen, led by a transport department official, were trying to flag down vehicles flouting the Delhi government’s pollution-control plan.
“As a soldier, one has to be more careful while dealing with civilians than with the enemy. I have dealt with civilians in Kashmir… Delhi is a world apart. In Kashmir, I had to be very alert because large crowds of civilians could have armed militants among them. Here, the only problem we have faced so far is two even-numbered cars speeding away despite us signalling them to stop,” said Singh.
As many as 120 teams, like the one Singh is part of, have been deployed near hospitals, ISBTs, courts, educational institutions, railway stations and government offices.
“I am imposing fines on violators. The three ex-servicemen assisting me are keeping a lookout for violators and flagging them down,” said Omi Shankar, the transport department official leading the team.
On the streets since 7.30 am, his team issued its first challan at 2.30 pm. “There seems to be strong compliance,” he said, as the man on the receiving end of the challan expressed his frustration with the “heavy fine”.
“They should exempt outsiders. I have come all the way from Rajasthan to pick up my father from the airport. For outsiders, they can reduce the fine to Rs 500,” he said.
During sporadic breaks to drink water and smoke a quick beedi, Shankar and the three ex-servicemen got to know each other. “We met for the first time this morning, when we quickly went over the rules and exemptions. We are gradually getting to know more about each other,” said Yash Pal, who retired from the Indian Army Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers in 2011.
Singh, however, said the government should have assigned the ex-servicemen a rank commensurate with their designation in the army. Those in charge of enforcement in the transport department are considered to be of constable-rank, equivalent of an Army sainik.
Another ex-serviceman and transport department employee, deployed near Kamla Market, had a more serious complaint. “We were told that we would have to serve for six hours every day when the Delhi government was recruiting us. On Thursday, they said we have to be on duty from 8 am till 8 pm… that’s a 12-hour shift. This is cheating,” he said on condition of anonymity.
At the Kashmere Gate ISBT, another team of former defence personnel was greeted with a salute of ‘Jai Hind saab’ by a homeless man.