It's because it often seems they regard the maintenance of law and order as someone else's job. Moreover, they are so petulant and rude that they can't even seem to respect themselves. With cops like these, the citizens have a standing invitation to take the law into their own hands. Most of us don't do so, because we haven't descended into anarchy yet, but it looks like the cops are ensuring we get there.
According to the law, I can call the police emergency number (100) and complain anonymously about the illegal use of loudspeakers (illegal before 6:30 am, and illegal at any time in primarily residential areas; religious use is not exempted). They have to dispatch a police van and confiscate the offending equipment. Here's my conversation with Constable Jadhav a few minutes ago (Monday, August 4, 2008, at 4:16 am):
Me: I'm calling from _____, and would like to complain about the illegal use of loudspeakers at 5 am.
Constable (I don't know if it was Jadhav): Is the noise on right now?
Me: No, but it will be at 5 am. It's on every morning --
Constable: Then call at 5, when the noise is on.
Me: But it doesn't go on for long, so by the time you send the van --
Constable: I'm hanging up
Me: No, wait --
4:17 am - I call 100 again.
Me: I'm calling from _____. Please hear me through. The last time whoever answered didn't let me finish. That's not right.
Constable Jadhav: Yes?
Me: The loudspeakers start at 5 am. Please send a van.
Jadhav: Call when the noise starts.
Me: No, please understand, the noise doesn't last more than a couple of minutes.
Jadhav: This is an emergency number.
Me: I know, but it's your job to take complaints, and send a van for loudspeakers.
Jadhav: Did I say I refuse to take a complaint?
Me: No, you didn't say so, but your behavior is that of refusal.
Jadhav: Call when the noise starts, and we'll send a van.
Me: I take it you're not new to Mumbai --
Jadhav: No. Maybe you're new to Mumbai.
Me: Let me finish my sentence. If you're not new to Mumbai, you are aware that an azaan lasts a couple of minutes.
Me: So if I call you when the azaan starts, and you send a van, it's going to waste their time, because the noise will end by the time the van gets there, and they're not going to be able to do a thing.
Jadhav: The van takes only five minutes to get there.
Me: But the azaan is less than five minutes.
Jadhav: This is an emergency number. At 5 am, we will call you.
Me: Why should the police call me at 5 am? I want to sleep.
Jadhav: Because the noise is disturbing you.
Me: Yes, but my plan is to be asleep at 5, not to be kept awake by loudspeakers or cops. Besides, it's not a matter of noise troubling me, it's a matter of violation of the law. You are a police constable, so you presumably know the law.
Jadhav: You call us when the noise starts. You feel they will start at 5 --
Me: No, I don't feel anything, I know it for certain. They start every morning at this time. I don't think you're taking your job seriously. What's your name?
Me: Full name?
Jadhav: We only give out surnames.
Me: OK, then. I work for [name of media organization]. I'm going to complain about you to the ACP [Assistant Commissioner of Police].
Jadhav: You do that.
At 4:58, the first loudspeaker starts off. I call 100 again at 5:01. Get through, long pause (no constable announcing himself), disconnected.
I try again at 5:02. Same thing -- connect, silence, disconnect. Lines are not terribly busy in the morning, and this is, as Constable Jadhav reminded me, an emergency number, so there's no reason for disconnection. I'm starting to think Jadhav is exercising his discretion with the help of Caller ID.
Still at 5:02, I dial 100 yet again. I connect, and silence.
Me: I'm calling from _____, and the loudspeaker is on. Please send a police van.
Me: [specify location]
Me: Whom am I speaking to?
Well, what can you say of a police force that is too busy to enforce the law because it's too busy persecuting young couples at the seashore? Words fail me.