Home Feature Chowkidars on High

Chowkidars on High

We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
Last week we wrote about three gutsy old women. They were all above 60, but they and their friends stood defiantly against the powerful quarriers and their neta–babu nexus, and saved Mussoorie from total destruction. That happened in 1974.
Now, 45 years later, the cleansing fire of civic action, that they had lit, has sparked again. Refusing to wait any longer for a sarkari (in this case a Municipal) response to their security needs, a few citizens have come together again to protect their civil rights.
“Security” is the big buzz word now, so is “chowkidar”. Unhappy with the level of security provided to their shops, a section of our citizens decided to help themselves. They realised that, occasionally, the fence eats the crops. So they did a very wise, but unconventionally Indian, thing: the elders consulted their youngsters!
The result is that shops in a stretch of the Mall now have 16 chowkidars watching over them. These security guards are not allowed to sleep, have no meal or comfort breaks, are permitted no holidays, and are compelled to maintain a minute-by-minute record of their activities. Inhuman? Absolutely. A gross violation of Labour Laws? Happily, no. These chowkidars, on high alert 24 X 7, have no rights and that’s not because our young generation has no human feelings, is anti-social or anti-national, or fit to be shipped to Pakistan! They are none of all these terrible, horrible, things!
Their ever-vigilant guards are 16 security cameras, linked by twisted sets of copper wiring referred to professionally as Category 6, or Cat 6. They have been installed by shop owners in their area, at minimum cost. The owners can now sleep easy, assured that their “guards” never do!
This is not to imply that our Police are not doing the best they can. We admit that there are some unsolved murders and burglaries in Mussoorie, but we still say that our Police force is shackled by unnecessary restraints. They are under-staffed, under paid and under uncouth netas. In enviable contrast, their best paid, best trained, best equipped colleagues get well-cut grey safari suits and wrap-around designer shades at We, the Government’s expense. Their job is to protect our netas who, apparently, are the ‘beloved of the masses!’ If our political big-wigs are really so adored then, presumably, they have to be shielded from the overwhelming suffocation of public love!
We shall leave these confusing thoughts and return to Mussoorie’s civic safety.
We understand that the City Board is toying with the idea of installing similar security cameras all down the Mall, from the Library to the Picture Palace. They are, apparently, also considering using Cat 6 cables, because they are cheaper. If this is correct, then it is deplorably short-sighted. Our civic bodies are not subject to the hazards of the trading community. Traders depend on sales, civic bodies rely on taxes. Sales are subject to the whims of customers; civic bodies are secure in the certainty of levies imposed on real estate and other legally enforced dues. Since the incomes of bodies like Municipalities are long term, their civic installations must also provide long-term benefits to their tax-payers.
Category 6 cables will not offer lasting benefits because they are on the verge of being rendered obsolete. The next generation, Cat 7, is being developed and is likely to be on the market very soon. If the Municipal authorities want to install a long security line, they must use the more reliable optical fibre cable. It has clear, long distance, transmission; it is immune to Electro Magnetic interference; and it has an intrinsic security of information. Its data is carried not by electricity but by light. Some other advantages are that it has high capacity, is light weight, has reduced maintenance costs, is easily upgraded, is smaller in size and it has the lowest lifecycle costs.  But, it is currently about two-and-a half times the cost of Cat 6.
Nevertheless, the long-range benefits of using optical fibres far outweigh the initial price savings offered by the limited distance, Cat 6 cables.
The young people of Mussoorie have set the example. Now it’s up to those who We, the Government have elected!