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Policing the men in khaki

mumbai Updated: May 06, 2013 01:42 IST
Puja Changoiwala

The police department has consistently topped the list of the most corrupt government department for the past five years, barring 2011, shows data from the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

Statistics show that not only are the maximum number of cases registered against police officials, but also that they have asked for the highest amount of bribes from the lay person.

Last month, 36 of the 168 constables with Nehru Nagar police station in Kurla were suspended after they allegedly accepted bribes to turn a blind eye on an illegal construction coming up in Chembur. A day later, on April 11, a senior police inspector was also suspended for neglecting duty.

Former senior policemen believe that this growing corruption in the police force can be attributed to the gradual politicisation of the force, where power has shifted from the police commissioner into the hands of politicians.

Former city police commissioner Julio Rebeiro said: "I sincerely believe that if all the powers of recruitment, posting, transfers and promotions are confined to the police chief with zero political intervention, corruption will decline substantially. If the police chief is then found to falter, he should be held accountable."

MN Singh, another former police commissioner, agrees with Rebeiro. "The government is gradually taking over the police department. A case in point - earlier, the director general of police had the power to oversee the recruitment of sub-inspectors. Now, this falls under the purview of politicians."

Singh said it is important that all facets of command and control of the police department go back to the police chief. "Currently, there is so much political patronage that punishing a policeman, even if he is guilty, is difficult."

The most effective way of reducing corruption is by removing the opportunities and avenues available for corruption, said Maharashtra's former director general of police, K Subramaniam, who believes that wherever there is interface with the public, there is opportunity for corruption.

The best bet is to use technology to cut down on such interactions. "For instance, if you consider the licensing system for vehicles, there is a lot of corruption at Regional Transport Offices. If fee payment is confined to online transactions, there will be no room for officers to make money. Similarly, if you digitise tickets for violations, traffic personnel will not be able to ask for bribes," Subramaniam said.

Between January and March this year, the ACB has already registered 40 cases against policemen. "In these 40 cases, the police have asked for a bribe of Rs 72,24,200, much higher than the revenue department, which has 38 cases against it with a bribe demand of Rs 2,61,626," said an ACB official, requesting anonymity.