Sunday, January 01, 2006

Zopadpatti Police Panchayat

Community Policing in the squatter neighborhoods of Mumbai. A great approach, and one that ought to be followed in every city in the developing world. Transliterated from the Hindi, the effort is called Zopadpatti Police Panchayat, and the program has reached 132 different squatter communities in Mumbai.

The details are a bit different than community policing as it's thought of in the U.S.:
"Every Zopadpatti Police Panchayat (ZPP) comprises seven women and three men from the slums. They are empowered to hear and resolve disputes within the area
Once a dispute is brought to the ZPP’s notice—a written complaint is mandatory—the accused and victim are exhorted to arrive at an amicable solution
Case details are recorded in a register. The ZPP gathers at a date decided by the 10 heads, but in an emergency, it can be held in any place, at any time
A police inspector and constable from the local police station or the beat chowkie are always present during hearings."

The project is a joint effort between the Mumbai Police Department and the National Slum Dwellers Federation, an important squatter organizing effort founded a generation ago by Jockin Arputham, who is still a squatter in the city.

This approach is similar to a community court in Behrampada, a mostly-Muslim squatter area adjacent to Mumbai's Bandra railway station. The women of the community banded together, with the help of the local Navjeet Community Center, to hear cases. Those they don't solve, they are empowered to refer for court or police action.


Bobby D said...

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Best wishes from Beckenham,

The Travel Insurance Man

Anonymous said...

I listened to your interview on Chicago Public Radio and found it extremely interesting. I was wondering if you have visited squatter camps in South Africa and if you think there is any hope for their elimination under the "New South Africa" regime?

rn said...

I haven't visited South Africa, but I hope to soon. I've been talking with a magazine in Cape Town about finding ways to go there to spend some time in the squatter neighborhoods.

Still, if you believe S'bu Zikode (and what better expert can there be than a squatter activist) [see the links at and], nothing's really changed for the poor since the transition to majority rule and the government needs to have its feet held to the fire. He says the 'New South Africa' has not been that much different than the old, when it comes to addressing issues of the poor.

Governments must partner with squatters. Any outside plans for 'upgrading' will give squatters at best a limited benefit and at worst can function as gentrifying enterprises which wind up driving squatters further from the centers of town, where many of them work.

I hope I do get to S.A., so I can hear from the squatters first-hand.