Extortion and blackmail by police is, perhaps, a world phenomenon. India is notorious for this. Lowly-paid constables are often flashed in media taking notes from drivers, either for ‘offence’ or as ‘donation’. The public, to some extent, has taken this type of extortion for granted. Commuters are used to it. Since actual fines for a particular offence is higher, the driver also tries to settle the matter with bribe, which is less. In some cases, the police threaten drivers with jail terms, which is worse than paying a few thousands and go scot free. Both the driver or vehicle owner and the police are to blame in such cases.
However, there is allegedly another type of extortion by police which is well organised and has political blessings. A truckers’ organization from Assam recently alleged such type of a racket at the behest of Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma. Such allegation against a chief minister is rare. But the agitators, who have called a blockade of trucks to and from Meghalaya on May 11 and 12, have some reasons to say it. They alleged that each loaded truck entering Meghalaya has to pay around Rs 3500 at 11 police stations and three transport (MVI) check gates along the NH 40-44, which connects Barak Valley of Assam, Tripura and Mizoram with the rest of the country through Meghalaya. Going by their confrontation mode, the allegation of the truckers’ body does not seem to be entirely false. The amount of ‘extortion’ may be exaggerated!
Now, if there is any iota of truth in the allegation that the police stations and MVIs on NH 40-44 extort money on a regular basis from trucks (Meghalaya registration trucks are alleged spared!), this is a very serious matter especially when the government is talking about its ‘commitment’ towards ending corruption. Such extortion – ‘11 police stations charging same amount’ – cannot take place without any plan. This is something more than that of a constable getting caught in camera while receiving Rs 10 note from a truck and being flashed in the media for hours. There must be someone or a team above controlling the whole affairs. Sources allege this money is collected in a pool and the who’s who get their shares periodically. They are rewarded for keeping silent about the daylight robbery. It seems the top brass even set targets of ‘revenue’ to be collected by different police stations. Will there be any end to such menace?
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 7, 2016)