“They threatened to call our parents and tell them that we were behaving in an indecent manner. My friend and I were just spending sometime together at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli,” says 19-year-old Pooja Shah, recalling her brush with the law.
“I was barely a year into college. If my parents would have been called, I could have been in trouble. They would have not let me continue with college. The police constables demanded Rs 2,000; we ended up paying Rs 500, hardly saving anything for ourselves to return home,” says the student of a Malad-based college, with disgust.
“I was hurt by the things they said just for a few rupees.” Shah is hardly the only one to have a bitter experience with the police. Several other Mumbaiites have had similar, or worse experiences.
Rubin D’Souza, a resident of IC Colony in Borivli, travels to his workplace at Saki Naka on his bike. “When caught by a traffic policeman, how many people actually pay the entire fine and insist on a receipt,” asks the 40-year-old BPO employee. “On most occasions, they shell out less than half the penalty, which is pocketed by the policeman.”
He adds that this routine has become so common that many bikers don’t consider it wrong. “Ironically, there are times when traffic cops themselves have told me that I will have to pay the fine and take the receipt as they have to meet a target set by their seniors,” said Rubin.
Rajiv Paul, 25, a resident of Vile Parle, had recently organised a lavish party in Gorai for his friends on his birthday.
“Just as we started enjoying ourselves around 11.30pm, three police constables from the local police station landed at the door. When I asked them what was wrong, they told us that we were not allowed to play loud music after 10pm. When we told them that the music was not loud and we ensured that no one was disturbed, one of them got furious and asked us to come to the police station if we knew the law better than them,” Paul recalls.
He added, “One of my friends asked me to give them some money to ‘solve the problem’. I handed over Rs 1,500 and the cops were gone.”
(Some names changed on request to protect identities)
Sheela Sail, Spokesperson for Mumbai police.
‘The department has police officers who will punish corrupt juniors’
What steps are you taking to make the common man believe that seniors will not shield erring juniors?
Not every policeman in the department is corrupt. Corruption is a part of every government department and we are trying to deal with it. Persistent action is being taken against policemen who are caught by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The number of policemen caught taking bribe has only increased, which means prompt and proper action is being taken. The harassed person can always approach seniors against the police officers and we will ensure that action is taken.
People are scared to approach policemen. What steps are being taking to create a new image for the men in khaki?
There should be transparency in every department. If you are being harassed by a policeman, don’t give in. Approach another officer who will definitely help solve the problem.
There are countless policemen in the department who will take action against corrupt juniors. But you need to approach them, first.
What steps are being taken to educate the common man against corruption?
Everyone should know their rights and duties. If a person is aware, he will know the right channel to be approached. An identification proof is every person’s right. He should not pay any extra money, other than the legal fee.
Awareness is the key to stop corruption. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has been distributing pamphlets among citizens to create awareness on whom to approach, if they are asked for a bribe.