Bangalore may serve as the center of India’s sophisticated and vibrant high-technology industry, but local police have adopted a very low-tech (and cheap) method to deal with the city’s worsening traffic problems -- they have installed life-sized cardboard cutouts of police officers to make motorists think they are under constant surveillance.
Economic Times reported that traffic fatalities are surging in India due to, among other factors, inattentive drivers, poor enforcement of traffic laws, alcoholism, bad roads and Indian motorists’ neglect of rules.
"Drivers in Indian cities violate traffic rules when there are no cops around -- they jump traffic lights and go the wrong way on one-way streets," Bangalore’s police traffic commissioner, M.A. Saleem, told Agence France Presse.
"These cutout cops are very effective and they can be on the job seven days a week.”
Three cardboard cops have been installed at busy intersections of Bangalore, and 10 more will be strategically added later.
"It's good. From a distance it looks like a real cop," a Bangalore driver told Indian news channel NDTV.
Another motorist said: "[I] think it might make people behave a little bit better. Two or three times we thought it was a real policeman standing there and we slowed down."
Saleem added that he thinks these pseudo-police are being used in India for the very first time, although such tricks have already been applied in Britain and the U.S.
He also told the BBC the appearance of the chimeras is working.
"It is not a gimmick. Wherever we have put up these cutouts, violations have come down," he said.
Saleem further told India’s NDTV television network: "Impact has been quite good. A lot of [drivers] when they see [the fake cop] from a little distance, they immediately [slow down]. In fact, one auto driver was found talking to that person [the cutout]."
But with more than 4 million vehicles in Bangalore and a mere 500 traffic policemen, many more cardboard versions may be required to dissuade errant drivers.
Last year, more than 60,000 traffic violations were reported in Bangalore, about seven every hour. At least two people are killed daily in the city by speeding vehicles.
Some Bangaloreans are not too keen on cardboard constables on patrol, however.
"All these things won't work. What is needed is the presence of real constables. The government should recruit more policemen," one unidentified policeman told BBC.
A college student named Rahul quipped: "Having dummies is a dumb idea. Do you think we can be fooled?"
Readers’ comments to the story in NDTV spanned the spectrum – from genuine approval to utter cynicism and dismissal.
One reader named "Cheeky Sarcasm" declared: “Thank God they did not put face of film stars on it,” while "Paul" said: “Congratulations police. Such innovative ideas are required for improving road safety. Hope other cities and towns will quickly follow suit.”
Someone named Prashant Chandrashekar took the rather obvious step of criticizing the media for reporting on the cardboard caper: “By making it public, you just destroyed its purpose!”
But it was Ananth Raj who suggested that Bangalore city and police officials should dump the cardboard cutouts and use high-tech to catch dangerous drivers.
“[Instead] of this, they could have installed [a] few cameras, which monitors the traffic and different kinds of fines are imposed on [different violations],” Raj wrote.
“In other [countries], they do have dummy camera boxes, [which] will scare the drivers to abide the law. I think this is much… better than making a [mockery] of our [traffic] police system. And I am scared, if they really implement this cutouts of… cops, then people may even.. forget to get scared of real cops.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.