Moscow: Comparisons between Lucknow – capital of India’s most populous state – and Moscow – capital of the world’s largest country – don’t come easy. Differences between the two are umpteen – but this one caught my eye over the others. Breaking traffic rules comes easily to us in Uttar Pradesh. Incidents happen, find a place in the news and then are given a quiet burial, yielding space to the “more happening news”. And if you happen to be connected (as almost everyone is in Uttar Pradesh), much before the traffic guy hands you a ticket, the chances are that he gets a phone call from someone up above and is forced to let you off. Russia seems to be on a different trajectory however.
A 20-year-old youngster, son of a top and powerful business executive in the country, has not only been sent behind bars for rash driving, troubling the police with a multi-hour chase but also seems to have spurred the traffic police into some sort of a “crackdown”. Ruslan Shamsuarov, son of the Vice President of LUKoil, Russia’s second largest oil producer, was on his way home on May 28 from a late night party with friends in his Mercedes Benz G-Class, speeding and breaking traffic rules. A video subsequently surfaced online showing Shamsuarov in a five-hour chase, as he zips around Moscow’s streets in his high-end vehicle, with the police in hot pursuit.
After he was hauled up and sent behind bars, the police here seem to have made a ‘national villain’ out of the lad, who is now subject of much debate and ‘gup-shup’ at roadside eateries and coffee shops. As my eyes zeroed in on a headline in a local daily on the topic, as a hack, I delved deeper into the subject. The receptionist at the hotel where I was staying supported the police action. “This is a must, we are a peace-loving city where even people walking by are given respect, allowed to cross the street first…how can we allow such youth on the streets?” he said in broken English.
In Lucknow or for that matter most of UP, it’s a routine affair and no one has the time to opinionate on it. Media reports suggest that many days before Shamsuarov’s arrest, Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin had declared war of Russia’s “golden youth”, a term, a report goes on to elaborate, used for youngsters who not only inherited riches from their powerful parents but also a sense of “entitlement”. Yakunin, in a video posted on the Interior Ministry’s website, speaks of a zero tolerance policy towards such law breakers and asked his force to ensure that such people who “care a damn about Muscovites and their safety” be brought to justice so that they can very well understand that “money cannot buy everything and everyone.”
Contrast this to the daily happenings in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh. While traffic cops try to do their bit, every time they stop someone breaking the law, a phone call, or for that matter, a flag (likely of the ruling party) atop the car ensures a quiet slip out of the “long hands of the law”. In UP, it is more likely that the top police officers give the traffic types at the city roads a call to let the law breaker off and to “mind your own business”. As if he was doing something else! The National Guards were sent to bring the ‘golden boy’ to justice while in UP such youngsters are often escorted to safety by the cops. The streets of Moscow here are not flush with traffic policemen as you may find in Uttar Pradesh, but then, the drivers are more sober, stay in the lanes they are supposed to be, stop at red lights and drive within laid down speed limits. Some pleasant feeling this is, specially for someone from Uttar Pradesh, where breaking law seems to be a kink, a hobby or a display of power.
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