Monday, September 18, 2006

The eyes of this cop are on you

Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Sanjay Aparanti, DCP, who has recently been enforcing the High Court directive on cable operators, monitors paedophiles, prostitutes, call girls, obscene music videos, vulgar film posters and wife swapping

Shevlin Sebastian

“A few days ago, I was supposed to cut the telecast of Zee TV, because of its violations of the Cable Television Network Act,” says Sanjay Aparanti, 42, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Social Service Branch. “So, I despatched my team at 8 pm to do the job. I told them I would come later. At 8.45 pm, on my way to the studio, I got a call from a woman. She told me that she had heard that I was going to cut the telecast and she wanted me to do it only after 10.30 pm.” Apparently, there was a programme about 9/11, which had been aired the previous day and the second part of the programme was being telecast that night. “Mr. Aparanti, I know you are a good man and I am sure you will do this for me,” she said.

Aparanti had fifteen minutes to decide. He called the television office and was told the telecast had been stopped. He spoke to the manager of the channel and told him to resume the telecast because there was a request from ‘one of your customers’. “I wanted to give the pleasure of viewing that particular programme for, maybe, a lakh of people,” he says. The channel resumed telecast and at 9.05 pm the woman called and thanked him profusely.

Aparanti tells me he does not know who the woman is but he felt happy when he made the decision. When he reached home, he was astonished to discover that his wife and two children were watching the same telecast. “The channel was taken off the air later,” says Aparanti, with a smile.

This is one event in an incident-packed life of the cop who looks after law enforcement in the city. Aparanti keeps an eye on paedophiles, raids brothels, traps call girls through sting operations, deals with piracy and counterfeit goods, sends publishers to jail for publishing obscene material, investigates the wardrobe malfunctioning of models like Carole Gracias and Gauhar Khan during a fashion show, confiscates decoders of cable operators, tries to limit the obscenity shown in music videos, targets vulgar film posters, tries to trace those who morph pictures of film stars on nude bodies, and keeps track on the orgies and the wife swapping in the city.

Can he police all this effectively?

“I have been constantly striving to deal with these subjects with sensitivity and sincerity,” he says. “But I have to tell you that at the end of the day, I am confused. In the wake of globalisation, our traditions have been shaken up. Everybody is in a crisis. Even I am in a crisis. I know what to do but I am confused about how to go about it. Because, in the end, I don’t want to interfere with personal freedom.”

One who has interacted with him often in the past few weeks has been Ravi Singh, 46, vice-president of the Cable Operators' and Distributors' Association for Maharashtra. “Aparanti is a gentleman,” he says. “He has enormous patience. He is always trying to understand our viewpoint and does not harass you.”

A doctor cum policeman

The surprising thing is that Aparanti had qualified as a medical doctor. He had set up a dispensary and was doing well but felt vaguely unsatisfied. He wanted to contribute more to society and the best way, he felt, was by becoming an administrator. So, he sat for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission examinations in 1989 and got through. However, according to his ranking, he was given the slot for policemen.

It is clear he has no regrets because, he says, the job of the policeman is most interesting. “I see the whole gamut of life,” he says. “Every day, I see something new. And that is great.”
In fact, he says, the world can be divided into those who are in the police and those who are outside. “The non-police person knows that wrong things are happening. But I know the reason why they are happening. Most people know only one part of life, while the police knows life in its entirety. A policeman is more mature than the rest of the population.”

“But the public does not think so,” I say.

“That is a different story,” he says.

Few demands

It has been a long journey for him. Aparanti was born in a village in Thane district, the son of teachers. There were six children and life was tough. “A teacher’s salary is not much,” he says. As a child, he delivered newspapers and happily gave the money to his mother. “My parents taught me to keep my demands in control,” he says. “Then you get more pleasure with a smaller amount of money. This is helping me now. Because there are temptations now I can resist easily. And I am dedicated to the job.”

It seems so. He spends an average of 12 hours a day in the office. He leaves the house at 8 am and plays squash for 45 minutes at the Police Gymkhana. From there, after a bath, he heads for the office.

After a day’s work, when he reaches home at 10 pm, he has a hot water bath and sits on the sofa and maintains silence for one hour. “It takes me one hour to get the office out of the system,” he says. “My wife keeps talking to me but I don’t reply. She enjoys doing this because I don’t entertain her calls during the day. I have told her, her time is one hour at night and one hour in the morning.”

Is your wife happy with you, I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, with a smile. “I think she is happy because I don’t interfere with her.”

To find out, on a Friday morning, I go across to meet Vandana Aparanti, 40 at the first floor apartment at the police quarters on Carter Road. It is a tidy apartment with a 27” Videocon television set holding pride of place. There is a picture of a tranquil Buddha on one wall and next to it, near the door, there is a white board with markings in red felt pen. Aparanti and Vandana met in college, fell in love and they have been married for 23 years. They have two children, son, Saunvedan, 21, who is about to embark on a post graduate degree in human rights in Britain and Sangini, 11, who is in Class seven.

When asked about the brief amount of time her husband spends at home, Vandana says, “We try to make the maximum use of whatever little time he has with us. In fact, I write on the board everything I have to discuss with him. Because there are so many things to tell him.”

Vandana, who is a social worker, says Aparanti has taken up police work as a mission to serve society “and I have always been supportive of his mission. I never feel that something is wrong because he is not at home. I always feel he is doing the right thing.”

Saunvedan, who is leaving for Britain in late September, says his father has a thankless job. “There is too much stress and pressure,” he continues. “He needs more staff and less working hours. The bureaucracy is not as efficient and is not able to deliver as much as it should.”

He says these are the reasons why he did not opt to follow in his father’s footsteps and has decided to serve society by working for non-profit organisations.


‘Prostitution should not be legalised’

Do you think it is right for two people to have sex before marriage?
If you are going to marry that girl, it is okay to have sex with her.

Suppose two young people have recreational sex?
I don’t agree with it at all. When I was in college, we treated the girl students with utmost respect. Young people should not indulge in pre-marital sex because the girl gets victimised. Man will enjoy himself but for the girl, in the end, she is looking for a lasting relationship. A woman does not have sex just for the sake of it.

Should prostitution be made legal?
No, because a woman does not go into prostitution because she derives pleasure in the act. I have talked to more than a hundred women and I have realised that it is only when they have no other source of livelihood, they take to prostitution.
The moment prostitution becomes legal, things would proliferate. Making people aware of the dignity of woman is very important. In our society, if a woman is not a wife, I am supposed to treat her like my sister, or mother or maasi [aunt] or child.

Would you arrest Vatsayana if he wrote the Kama Sutra today?
I have not read that book, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the exploitation of women. But the Kama Sutra cannot be relevant today because there is so much of porn, which has flooded the market.

Do people get corrupt by viewing erotic material?
Yes, they do. Sex is overpowering. Only if you have read good literature and seen good movies and listened to classical music, only then you can withstand it. But how can you enjoy porn when you know the woman has been exploited? I have always seen agony in the eyes of the women who take part.


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