The police is under pressure to improve its law and order record on the streets of Delhi after the gang rape incident. This has come as an opportunity for some personnel to fleece more money than usual from the public saying that the price of breaking law and getting away with it has gone up because of the extra vigilance.
"Till the rape incident did not happen, they were happy if I gave them Rs 200 as bribe for not carrying my vehicle registration documents. However, now that price has increased to Rs 400. They stop us on one pretext or the other and ask for money," said Gopi, an auto rickshaw driver. According to him, the policemen who demand the bribes are mostly from the rank of constables and head constables, as they are the ones who are on the streets for the maximum time.
Ankit, a student of Netaji Subhash Institute of Engineering, Dwarka, said that he too has experienced this: "Earlier, they would take anything between Rs 50-100 if someone was not wearing a helmet. However, this has now increased to Rs 200."
A private transporter in Dwarka Mor, who owns 15 buses, said even though the traffic police has become more active ever since the gang rape, there are always ways to bribe them. "It's true that the rate of issuing of challans has increased, but it is a mere formality as things are running as before. Challans are mostly issued under lighter sections of the Motor Vehicle Act. We have been doing 'business' with them for more than 15 years and things cannot change overnight. Earlier, our drivers gave Rs 500-Rs 700 if they were caught for violating the law, now this has increased to Rs 1,000-Rs 1,200."
According to a report published by the National Crime Records Bureau last year, out of 61,765 complaints filed against policemen across India for alleged irregularities, 22% (12,805 cases) were registered in Delhi alone.
Street vendors, who conduct their businesses without permit, have also witnessed the hike in demand. "I used to pay Rs 6,000 to the local police personnel every month since my shop is illegally set up on the footpath. Last week they came and vandalized my shop. Now I have been asked to pay Rs 7,500 to them," said a florist who did not wish to be named.
A Delhi police constable, whom this correspondent spoke to, however denied any such "development". "No one feels good if he is asked to pay fine for parking his car at the wrong place or not waiting for the light to turn green. We only do our duty by issuing challans against those who break the law
and that is the reason why they accuse us of taking bribe. Why don't you ask them why they break the law in the first place?"