The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has started a drive to collect information of house/apartment owners and their tenants in the capital in an effort to curb crimes in the city. The information has to be furnished in a form provided in the name of police but with no police monogram or seal.
This unusually drab move to collect information of all inmates in a household has caused some unease and doubt as this information, many inhabitants feel, may also be passed on to criminal themselves.
"We welcome the move (to gather information) but the way they (police) approach us is somewhat unlikely of coming from a state security force," one owner said, requesting anonymity. "They send us plain sheet of paper with so many clauses (without a DMP) seal or monogram) that causes confusion and hassles to us," he told the Daily Observer.
DMP officials say the effort was intended to tackle growing crimes including abduction and killing in the city. But many dwellers see it as an opportunity for "dishonest" lawmen to hand these information also to the law breakers.
"Such a possibility cannot be ruled out," said another Dhaka house owner. Tenants, their domestic aides, guards and drivers have all to be included in the list with detail information including cell and driving license numbers. "These are highly sensitive information to pass even to the police in a free and flat fashion," said one resident.
Nevertheless, people in Dhaka feel the necessity of a "fool proof" information database only if they can be protected properly and used only in "genuine" cases of verifying identities of persons. But police may not always be as honest to guard the information, they say.
Others said all information about a house owner, his family members and tenants had earlier been complied while preparing national identity (NID) cards, So, many would ask why police need a second generation of IDs for their database.
Muntasirul Islam, Deputy Commissioner (media and public relations) of DMP, told the Daily Observer that 'it's a kind of routine work that police are doing for the sake of security, awareness and caution.
The police personnel have been directed to collect the information by visiting every house in police uniform and giving their identities. The police should have this information for the sake of security of the city dwellers.
This information bank will cover both owners of houses and their tenants living in the city permanently and temporarily so that the police can easily get any information about them.
Visiting different areas under a constituency in the city, it has been learnt that the police are supplying registration forms by going from door to door to collect information so that the criminals cannot carry out any criminal activity by renting any house.
The police are telling the house owners to rent out their flats after knowing well about their tenants.
Though a section of house owners hailed the initiative, others termed it just a hassle. On the other hand, if any extremist act takes place anywhere, the house owner, the gate keeper of that house and other tenants also face questioning by police.
So, the police think if there is the information available beforehand, in that case the question of this hassle does not arise. So, the police have told them to fill up the forms carefully giving details about all including the gatekeepers and drivers and submit the forms to the police stations.
According to police sources, criminals are using rented houses to plan and commit subversive acts. So, this initiative has been taken to foil possible extremist and subversive acts over the war crimes trial, kidnap of owners of any house or their tenants, killings and robberies.
The sources said though information had been collected from the house owners since 2013 about the tenants on several occasions, the initiative could not be completed. Later, before the January 5, 2014 election the bachelor messes in the city were brought under surveillance of the intelligence agencies against the backdrop of political instability and acts of violence across the country.
Then the intelligence agencies told owners of messes to give information about the bachelor tenants including their national identity cards, bio-data, identities of their guardians and their mailing addresses.
Again, soon after some sensational incidents that took place in the last one month the initiative has been revived as per a decision given in a recent monthly crime conference at the DMP Commissioner's Office. The police at different police stations will collect information about the owners of buildings, tenants, the owners of hotels and the boarders. They will also collect information about the madrasas, their teachers, their identities, coaching centres, what is taught there, the slums and their tenants and owners.
An owner of a building at Badda told this correspondent that "About a week ago the police came and gave us a form for collection of information. They said they would come two days later to collect the form. But still they have not come."
They gave us two types of forms. One was for the owner of any building or flat and the other for tenants. If there is any mess, then the information about them has to be furnished separately.
The owner of a building in the city's New Market area said, "The forms carry no monogram or seal of the police. This creates doubt about it. Some days ago also the police gave us forms for collection of information. Is not it possible to collect all the information at a time?" "They are creating hassles in the name of collection of information again and again. A database could be created by collecting information at a single time."
The DMP sources said the information collection drive was geared up following the recent incidents like killing of a police member at a check-post, an attempt of murder on a military policeman, the killing of two foreigners, the killing of a publisher and the attempt of murder on another and bomb attacks. Besides, there is possibility of committing subversive activities over the war crimes trial.
Also a month ago the DMP commissioner directed the deputy commissioners and additional deputy commissioners of different departments to collect information about the residents in different areas under the DMP police stations.
So, the owners of the buildings were told to collect details about tenants, including names, identity, present addresses, permanent addresses, names of parents and copies of voter ID cards, educational institutions' ID cards and official ID cards. Photos are also being attached with the forms.
In the forms they must mention the holding numbers of the houses and the locations (roads and lanes).
The forms also will contain the information like how many stories a building has, the number of people residing there, their names, addresses, professions and mobile phone numbers. The copies of ID cards of students of different universities and colleges who stay in hostels also need to be submitted.