The Delhi police have been using Facebook to improve traffic conditions in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. They have already issued hundreds of notices for traffic violations based on pictures posted online.
Delhi is known for its traffic chaos
Sitting in Delhi's main traffic control room, inspector Yashwant Silva and his team of seven constables are staring at their screens, looking at a Facebook page specifically designed for denouncing traffic violations in the Indian capital.
Concerned netizens have posted photographs and videos of traffic infringements and violations.
"In the past three months, there has been an increase in followers and of photographs on Facebook. We look into the complaints and try to find remedies after checking with our senior officers and the concerned police stations. Sometimes we send notices to the offenders or fine them on the spot if possible," explains Silva, who is overwhelmed by the response.
Delhi traffic police do not have enough resources to book every violation
India has highest number of road deaths
India has the highest number of road accidents in the world. The total number of deaths due to such accidents has passed the 135,000 mark, according to the latest report issued by the National Crime Records Bureau.
Delhi, like India's other megacities, is notorious for its traffic. According to the capital's traffic department, there are already over 6.5 million registered motor vehicles and the figure rises by almost 1,000 every day.
Joint Commissioner of Police Satyendra Garg came up with the idea of using Facebook
Joint commissioner's innovative idea
It was the Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Satyendra Garg who came up with the innovative idea of using Facebook to find out the views of citizens on how to better control traffic and to help police officers find offenders.
"We started the page in May and in less than three months more than 21,000 people have come on board," he says proudly.
"It is extremely popular. More than 4,000 photographs have been posted on the website where people have reported violations. I think everybody feels that something should be done."
Collisions between buses, cars or rickshaws are not uncommon
Even the police have been caught out
Ironically enough the police officers themselves have also been caught thanks to the site.
"There are quite a large number of photographs relating to police," Garg says. "Even traffic policemen have been found violating rules – a traffic motorcyclist going without a helmet or triple-riding by policemen for example."
He says that disciplinary action has been taken in such cases and some policemen have been moved out of the traffic unit.
He hopes that the Facebook endeavor will provide some relief ahead of and during the Commonwealth Games when traffic in the city will be even more frantic than usual.
The Delhi police are not the only force to resort to Facebook. Police departments in the United States and Israel also have pages to keep the public informed of changes in the law and to allow them to be active partners in the combat against crime.
Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Anne Thomas