Rising complaints against lower police functionaries engaging in extortion in the name of ‘illegal construction’ seem to have finally ruffled some feathers.
The Delhi Police, which till now seemed to be immune to allegations of being hand-in-glove with builders and house owners flouting municipal norms pulled-up its socks over the last seven months and noticed not only a rise in the total number of illegal constructions in Delhi, but has also increased action against them.
In fact, the police took action against more than double the number of illegal constructions noticed by it till the end of July than it has over the last three years –combined.
"As if the number of written complaints we were getting about beat officers engaging in extortion in the name of illegal construction weren’t enough, complainants had started pouring in with similar complaints at our headquarters,” said an officer.
As per police records, 20,152 illegal constructions were spotted in 2010, 30,035 in 2011, 29,203 in 2012 and till July 15 this year, 16,116 have come to light. But when it came to taking action: Only 568 cases were taken up in 2010, 427 in 2011 and 494 in 2012.
Compared to this, action has been initiated against 3,201 such buildings this year, with most of the structured found in central Delhi district.
Vigilance enquiries, which were subsequently set up across the capital after the rush in complaints, revealed that the enterprising beat officer’s first point of contact was actually the neighbourhood construction material vendor.
The former would receive routine tip-offs about ongoing construction in his beat, appear at the building, issue subtle threats of ‘informing his seniors’ about it and return to the local police station with a small monetary tribute.
“Over the last seven months, however, things have changed. There is a separate log kept at each police station pertaining to constructions per se which is checked during surprise visits by senior officials,” said an officer.
“This data is shared with municipal agencies on a monthly basis and action is taken against illegal constructions as and when required.”
“If found guilty of any connivance, the concerned officer will be dealt with as severely as possible departmentally,” said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of police (law and order).