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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014
Auto-cracy
Dwaipayan Bose, Hindustan Times
September 26, 2007
First Published: 01:20 IST(26/9/2007)
Last Updated: 01:28 IST(26/9/2007)
Crime syndicates, they say, are run like business houses — with proper accounting, detailed paperwork, imaan, dharam and perhaps even an HR department. Nothing new, if you have seen the pre-insanity works of a certain Bollywood filmmaker. My story is not about MNCs of crime and corruption, but about a kind of cottage industry of the same that exists along the UP-Delhi border.

As usual, the man in khaki is the villain. Police take money, we know. They need it very much, as is evident from the way they stand in front of moving trucks for mere small change. The Delhi-UP border, however, has a little tale of its own.

From the first till the eighth of every month, all autorickshaw drivers wishing to cross the border have to pay their ‘monthly’ to the police. Against the payment they are given a signed receipt, a piece of paper as valuable to the auto-driver as is a false passport to a terrorist. The good times then roll in: the auto-driver is free to cross the state’s boundary. If any other policeman catches him unknowingly, the auto-driver just needs to show the receipt. And, he is waved through.

But, alas, there’s more tyranny to come when the Delhi-registered vehicle drives deeper into the ‘hostile’ territory. The local police start drooling at the three-wheeler, as if it’s the hot new babe in town. But they are honourable people, they don’t dirty their hands easily. So they employ a couple of goons to do their rotten thing. The moment an autowallah enters their domain, the goons are sent to stop him and extort a sum that generally ranges between Rs. 10 and Rs. 20. The ‘receipt’ does not help here, so fresh payments have to be made. If the auto-driver tries to dodge them and race away, the police-paid goons tail them on their motorbikes. After being caught, they are sent to the lock-up for crossing the border illegally. A punishment for not obeying unwritten rules.

There’s, however, a diktat in this — no auto carrying a passenger will be stopped. The reason: the police force does not want its image to get tarnished in front of commoners.

So next time the autorickshaw driver asks for a little extra, just remind yourself that, in a way, you are paying ‘law enforcement’ authorities.

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