Published: 29th July 2019
Route Thala getting too rowdy for you? Send a secret WhatsApp complaint to Chennai Cops
After a spate of incidents, each one more weapon-heavy than the last, the cops are trying to fight the exuberance of youth with their own weapon - touchscreen technology
Imagine this. You're heading to college. You're probably late. It's Chennai. It's inevitably hot. The bus is way past crowded. You're praying that the driver channels his inner Schumacher fast enough to beat the bell. And just about then you hear that familiar drumming on the side of the bus. The heckling grows like a crescendo till the man who everyone looks to - the route thala - motions them on to more serious matters. The rival bus gang needs to be outdone.
In that moment, you know - trouble is a bygone conclusion. You're better off getting to college in a Ola Share that's coming from Gummidipoondi.
With at least seven incidents of bus-linked violence involving Chennai's bus students being reported in the last three months, the cops have had enough. To cut to the chase quicker than any cop has ever done before, they've gone for the head - the Route Thala is quite literally in their crosshairs. "We have known about this culture for several years but we have let it be because they are students and because they have always stayed within limits. Now with social media and the increased focus on safety within the community, such things cannot be ignored," said a senior police official.
To fight fire with fire, or WhatsApp videos with, well, WhatsApp complaints, the Greater Chennai Police have officially launched a WhatsApp number where students, passengers and citizens at large can 'anonymously' complain about antisocial and illegal activities that are being carried out by your unfriendly, neighbourhood Route Thala.
Incidentally, the Route Thala, should be not be familiar with the term is the captain of the ship that sails along a particular bus route - he decides what manner of activity the pliant students of that bus gang indulge in and also gets to decide when and to what extent justice against opposing route gangs is carried out. Things really came to a head ten days ago when a video emerged from a Cctv in Arumbakkam that showed colleges students from Pachaiyappa's getting off a 29E bus and attacking each other with iron rods and a machete.
That number, should you want to save it, is +919087552233. If you're not quite up for sending a complaint via WhatsApp, you can also place your complaint through the private message section of the Chennai City Police's official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
This comes just days after the cops got together nearly 90 Route Thalas from colleges across the city - a majority of them were from Presidency College, Pachaiyappa's College and from the Government Arts College, Nandanam - and got them to swear that they would not be up to no good. That rather strange scene aside, the police realised that threats of complaining to their parents and telling them that they had them under their watch would only go that far. "We have been mulling over having a complaint number for a good many years. Now social media is easier to access and people can send videos, pictures and location to us as well," said the officer, indicating that this would go a long way towards curbing the bus violence that is being more frequent, and openly violent, across Chennai.
To ensure that your Route Thala down Smt small a rat and ostracise you from his route fiefdom - or worse - all the complaints are completely anonymous and no verification will be required. Sources indicate that the WhatsApp number and social media channels are being monitored via a system by the Greater Chennai Traffic Police and they intend to get to any source of bus violence within two minutes flat - this is in addition to increased surveillance along known trouble-prone routes.
Perhaps this time, the police have gotten to the route of the problem in record time.