New anti-graft helpline: Concerns over ‘fear factor’

Poor street vendors and common people who bear the brunt of police excesses expect Arvind Kejriwal to take up cudgels on their behalf. But for that the Delhi Police should come under the state government. Delhi denizens will hoping that a similar fate doesn’t await the anti-graft helpline, announced by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at the swearing-in ceremony on Saturday to check corruption in government offices.

A source in Delhi Police admitted to Millennium Post: “It is possible that a large number of complainants are either harassed or they fear retribution by cops once they dare to register a complaint. In a few cases, the identity of the complainants also allegedly got leaked when the case went to the concerned district for departmental enquiry.”

So far in 2015, 191 complaints of corruption have been registered by the vigilance branch and there were as many as 1,406 complaints registered in 2014,  as per Delhi Police records. “But in roughly 400 of the cases, the complainants did not join investigation and, hence, the cases were weakened when they were forwarded to the districts. However, there is no separate record maintained for such cases,” another source said.

Also in three of the 11 cases, in which complaints received through the helpline led to FIRs against police officials, the complainants wanted to withdraw their complaints, said the police source. Kejriwal who took over as Delhi’s CM on Saturday announced that he would soon start a similar helpline through which aggrieved citizens could send texts, video and audio recordings of their engagements with corrupt government officials.

 “However, other factors like the complainant not prepared to show up in court or having a negative attitude towards the police in general should also be considered,” the source said.

Before the recent Delhi Assembly elections, street vendors and builders across the city had complained about police officials harassing them for “protection money”, to let them carry on with their business.

“For builders, mostly officials of PCR unit who regularly patrol the area allegedly charge them Rs 20,000 per lintel (installed before adding a floor). Apart from that, beat constables also occasionally ask for cuts between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. The new government must look into it,” said a Shahdara-based builder who did not want to be named.

In October 20, 2014, Delhi Police started an intensive campaign against cops harassing people for unauthorised construction and asked them to use the 1064 helpline.

Since then, the vigilance department has so far received 86 complaints of cops allegedly extorting money from builders. Of the total 86 cases, 58 are in process of vigilance enquiry. In fact, 21 of the 86 cases were registered in January 2015, revealed records.

Street vendors all across the city, most of them claiming to have voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said that they allegedly set aside a monthly cut of Rs 1,000 for the local cops. “For street vendors, the Street Vendors Act 2014 has remained only on paper and exploitation of street vendors, by the police and civil agency officials, continues unabated. The new government must look into it,” said Arbind Singh, coordinator of the National Association of the Street Vendors of India (NASVI).

In the past 13 months, the vigilance branch of Delhi Police has registered 32 FIRs against 68 police officials in total. The PCR wing of Delhi Police happens to be the most graft-ridden, followed by the Traffic unit, revealed Police records.

An official of the vigilance branch said that they were aware of the extortion business and claimed to have taken up several investigations on their own after receiving inputs. A Station House Officer in north-east district was also suspended in late 2014 for his alleged involvement in extortion. It was the DCP of the district who took the call even before the complaint reached the vigilance branch.

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