New Delhi | February 22, 2006 8:15:05 AM IST
MPs aren’t the only ones prepared for a busy budget season. Delhi Police too are geared to face an onslaught of street protests that are typical when parliament is in session.
Data analysed by Delhi Police shows the number of processions by protestors in the capital goes up by almost three times during parliament sessions, about half a dozen a day. Some draw thousands of people.
"During the last parliament session we had an average of 13-15 dharnas (protest marches and sit-ins) by different groups every day," Rajiv Ranjan, the additional deputy commissioner of police, told IANS.
"This time also we expect a similarly high number during the budget session," he added. The two-month long budget session began last week and will end April 28.
Ranjan said on a normal day, the New Delhi district police – in whose jurisdiction parliament falls – have to make arrangements for at least five dharnas.
"Sometimes we have to provide food and water to our men at the protest site because they don’t get time to leave the site for food," he said.
He said there were only two areas in the city where people are allowed to stage protests. The first is near Jantar Mantar, an observatory on Parliament Street, and on Parliament Street per se. Both sites are not far from the British-built Parliament House.
Most demonstrations end peacefully although many involve pushing and shoving between demonstrators and policemen behind the barricades. Some protests however turn violent and the mobs are dispersed with water cannons and batons.
Said Manish Agarwal, the additional deputy commissioner of police: "In the past four days we have had 9-10 protests from different groups daily."
Agarwal said the biggest was a protest carried out by lawyers. On the very first day of the budget session of parliament, around 2,000 lawyers staged a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court.
"The reason behind the increase in protests during the parliament session is people try to get maximum mileage during these months and try to get heard," said Ranjan.
"If the crowd is bigger than 1,500 we prefer they collect at Parliament Street because it has a bigger space to accommodate people," he said.
"Thank god the crime rate in Lutyens’ Delhi is very low, so we get the time to make preparations for all these dharnas," he said, referring to the city’s heart. "Otherwise we would have had a tough time catering to both the things."
He said there were days when 360-600 men were needed to manage a dharna as police personnel have to be on daylong duty just to monitor the activities of protestors.
"We have to ask for more personnel from the reserve battalions of the force because we sometimes fall short of men," he said.
"We do our work well and try to assess the number of people who would be coming for the dharna, the type of crowd, the objective of coming, their background and how unruly the crowd can become," he said.
"Since it is a VIP area, there is place for error and we have to be on our toes all the time."