Crime and Punishment During Phet

9 Jun

In anticipation of cyclone Phet, The government barred people from
going into the Arabian Sea. One daredevil rickshaw wallah paid no heed
to this warning and decided to use the unusually quiet beach and
boisterous waves to wash his rickshaw.

But his crime did not go unnoticed by the vigilant Pakistan police.
The offender was caught and duly punished albeit in a rather creative
way. But I guess there really aren’t any laws on the books about
punishments for rickshaw washing in the sea when a cyclone approacheth!

This picture has been doing rounds on the internet and i dont have
away to validate its authnticity or timing but it does give us some
food for thought. And since yesterday, ive been thinking whether to be
appalled, amused or appreciative of the vigiliance and creativity of
this police officer! What do you think?


2 Responses to “Crime and Punishment During Phet”

  1. mahakamal June 11, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    The poor guy seems so penitent :(. I’m glad the police officer noticed him though. Who knows, he might have saved the guy’s life..

    Btw, you write so well, Sehar! I came across your blog randomly on facebook a few weeks ago, and it’s been a pleasure reading ever since.

  2. Jaleed June 12, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I think both people in the pic must have wondered at some stage how life has brought them to this point. The policeman perhaps showing off his environmentalist side (unlikely) or taking his chances to pocket a little bribe (likely).

    His victim, the rickshaw driver, wondering why would anyone care about salty, undrinkable, dirty looking water that strangely resembles something that has a lot of detergent in.

    But both people probably arent that different from each other. Both from poor families, with plenty of mouths to feed and never enough resources around, Both trying to make the bets of what seemed like a good opportunity, both ignoring the purpose of the beach visit restriction.

    The rickshaw driver is probably thinking, Ive given plenty of policemen free rides. Perhaps this one would let me go. After all no one really needs this otherwise unusable water.

    (Now relating to the previous Business School article)

    The policeman (if he was looking for a bribe) probably overlooked the obvious (misjudged his target market) or perhaps taking desperate measures ended up with the wrong victim. Surely, a person who is using the open sea to wash his rickshaw doesnt have any money to pay up.

    This point is something that has puzzled me for many years. In a relatively financially better off environment, such as in London, crime rates are much much higher in poor neighbourhoods rather than the affluent ones despite the distance between quite small. Less than a mile in some cases. And at night getting away isnt that much of a problem (during the day its probably impossible due to the 5 miles/hour traffic). A robbery in a property that costs several millions of pounds is more likely to be more fruitful than a robbery in a property given to its current occupant by the state as he cannot afford his own.

    The conclusion Ive drawn is that most thieves fall under the category of unorganized crime. They have been too lazy to do anything to avoid their predicament of becoming a thief to get by. They must be too lazy to look beyond their own neighbourhood, and have ended up stealing from their own. They basically lay their hands on whatever they can get.

    This also reflects the thinking process behind most blue collar crime in Pakistan (or perhaps anywhere else). White collar criminals are basically addicted to their habit. They think they have a good thing going on why ruin it and mostly find it hard to justify to themselves going straight. The rest is greed.

    Now in Game Theory, if a participant in a game thinks that he has better chances of surviving by leaving things as they are rather than make a change and take a chance on improving his conditions while risking loosing what he has, he is most likely to make the obvious decision and play it safe. Any law-makers dealing with financial regulation reforms should know this better than anyone else these days. In my view, the deal-maker is giving a positive incentive to stay within appropriate (maybe) self-defined risk levels, and a negative incentive for the opposite. Unfortunately , the threat of a penalty or imprisonment are not the right kind of incentives. Otherwise we would not have any Madoffs.

    But this rickshaw driver or the policeman are no Madoff, or any of the Enron/Worldcom guys. They just want to live their lives while thinking what have they done to deserve their own misfortunes. And I think the answer is they have done too little and when they have done anything to change it, it has been a step in the wrong direction.

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