Sunday, November 23, 2008

Outsourcing the collection of bribe

Outsourcing the collection of bribe


People are looking, so what? This seems to be the attitude of this youth for whom this illegal way of making money, on behalf of the police, is a mean
Raghavendra R
First Published : 22 Nov 2008 07:54:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 22 Nov 2008 09:36:23 AM IST

BANGALORE: Ever heard of bribery being outsourced? The IT capital has another first to its credit. The city traffic police have outsourced collection of bribe from those plying private buses on restricted routes, to a few youth. Here is a first person account from The Express reporter on the how and what of the organised racket.

The stretching hand...

Acting on a tip-off that on the stretch of the Rajkumar Road in Rajajinagar all private buses plying from Tumkur Road towards Majestic bribe traffic police, I followed a private bus from Gurguntepalya on Tumkur Road. The bus entered Rajkumar Road and stopped at Navrang signal light. I too stopped my two-wheeler at the junction just in front of the bus.

Meanwhile, through my vehicle mirror I was keeping an eye on the bus that was behind me, especially the conductor.

The signal was about to turn green, when a youth approached the bus conductor and left soon. The traffic started to move and I followed the bus up to Sujatha theatre but I didn’t notice the conductor bribing any cop on the stretch of Rajkumar Road.

I felt something fishy about the youth who had approached the conductor earlier. I went back to Navrang signal and parked my vehicle. Another private bus was arrived at the signal and I noticed that the same youth running towards the bus and stretching his hand towards the conductor. The conductor gave a Rs 10 note to the youth. I noticed that all private buses passing through the junction paid Rs 10 to him, despite the presence of a traffic constable, passengers and public.

Efficient to the hilt...

The youth who is aged about 20 years is busy throughout the day collecting money from the private bus operators not even having time to attend nature’s call. He waits near the MedPlus shop or the car battery shop next to Shani Mahatma temple near Navrang signal and performs his assigned ‘duty’ very efficiently. When he can no more control the urge to urinate, another person takes over for a few minutes.

After observing him for hours, I boarded one of the private buses whose conductor gave him Rs 10. When enquired about the incident, conductor Rajkumar said that operators of all private buses, plying from Tumkur Road towards Majestic, which passes through Rajkumar Road have to pay Rs 10 on a regular basis for a trouble-free day to that man. “He has been engaged by the traffic police since more than a year and a half as the police cannot accept bribe in public and especially in uniform,” he informed.

The conductor added that earlier they used to alight down to put money in a box at the traffic island or give it to the constable himself.

Cops don’t want to be caught in the act...

“Of late, police have become really smart by engaging unemployed youths to get their job done. The Navrang signal is one among other junctions in the city where the roads have become toll roads for us,” Rajkumar informed.

I alighted from the bus and went back to the Navrang junction.

Every bus that passed the junction, followed the routine.

Curious to know more about the youth, I boarded another bus. Conductor Mahalingu said that earlier private buses were coming through West of Chord Road and join Sujatha theatre Road. “For the last two years, we are plying on Rajkumar Road route as there is no proper connectivity from West of Chord Road to join Sujatha theatre road. Policemen have hired the youth and there is a gang headed by one Rajanna, to which he belongs. If we don’t give money, they abuse us. This guy is on the job for a long time now,” he added.

Nothing official about this toll fee...

Mahalingu informed me that the Navrang signal was not the only place where the ‘toll fee’ is charged. All private buses on this route must pay at two other places, of course, to people whom the traffic police have outsourced the dirty job. I was taken aback. The conductor took me in the bus to those spots - one was Okalipuram Circle and the other was the pre-paid autorickshaw stand of KSRTC bus terminal. All three places were hubs of activity and had busy traffic.

The youths engaged for the job are aged between 20 and 30 years. At Okalipuram Circle, usually a youth sits outside a church with a makeshift puncture shop in a corner nearby. During night, the same youth sits there, this time with policemen, to collect the bribe money from passing private buses. There is a man with his head shaved, who is the stand-by.

An act that stinks like a toilet...

At the pre-paid autorickshaw stand, two youth operate. They wait at a dilapidated bus shelter or at the nearby pay & use toilet. Like at the Okalipuram Circle, here too the bus conductors paid Rs 10 each to the youth. “It is easy money and job for these unemployed youth.

Traffic policemen will pay them about Rs 100 to 150 per day,” he says. “If this route is not legal to ply, why are the police not stopping or prohibiting private buses?” he asks. What he left unsaid was that if they prohibit the buses, where will they earn the shameless money from? Licence for graft? According to a source in the transport department, on an average over 100 private buses to various destinations pass through Rajkumar Road connecting Okalipuram and Majestic daily. Jnanabharathi Regional Transport Officer Syed Shafi Ahmed informed that the transport department has the authority only to issue permits to private bus operators from Majestic to various destinations. “The routes of those buses are notified by the traffic police,” he added.

In deep slumber...

Speaking to Express, DCP (traffic-west) P H Rane, said that according to earlier notification, private buses were allowed to enter Rajkumar Road and while exiting from the city they had to pass through Sampige Road. However, due to underpass work at Malleswaram Circle, the buses are allowed to ply on Rajkumar Road, while exiting also. “According to the present notification there are no restrictions for private buses to ply on Rajkumar Road,” he informed.When his notice was drawn to the racket of youth collecting ‘toll fee’ on behalf of the police, Rane said that he had no information about outsourcing as he had taken charge only recently. However, the DCP promised that he would look into the matter personally and suspend those who were involved in the illegal activity.

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