Friday, November 17, 2006

Traffic and Bribe

Around the same week, when President A P J Abdul Kalam was inaugurating a two-day conference of senior officials and heads of anti corruption wings , I was witnessing traffic policemen collecting his ‘hafta’ (share of bribe!) at the traffic signal opposite President Kalam’s official residence.

This traffic signal stands at cross roads of Vijay Path (a road the leads from Presidents’ palace to India Gate) and road that lead to Parliament. This is no ordinary traffic signal or pole but a singular small light that it put on the top on the dome of the permanent stand kept in the middle of this large intersection. This funny, obscure signal light is known only to regular delhites but those who are visitors to Delhi become a victim of the traffic violation. On weekday, visitor is protected by cars ahead that stop seeing the signal but on weekend or holiday, the place is barren- visitors come to see the grandeur of President Palace, Vijay Path and India Gate. Traffic Policeman sets his bait hiding behind the back of the yellow barricades that are lined on the one side of the street- looking for gullible drivers that violate the signal.

I had watched this incident many times- when I was in Delhi. This time, poor driver of rent car became a victim. I am amazed by the change of verbal tone and delivery of the policeman once he accepts his bribe. Initially, he is all upright, demanding licenses, car registration papers, admonishing the driver of reckless driving and threatening him of importance of driving in VIP area but once he collects his bribe – his tone becomes conciliatory. He sympathizes with driver, asks him to be careful next time and even wishes him a warm goodbye.

Delhi Traffic Police website and
Indian driving schools website both mention the violation fines for jumping the signal is Rs 100. But I am told that if driver were not to offer a bribe –he would have to surrender the license to traffic policeman and then report to the court at appointed date, pay the fine and recover his license from the department. All this is nothing but waste of time, money and peace of mind. In the end, violator puts the same money in the pocket of policeman at the expense of national exchequer.

President Kalam in his keynote address advocated use of e governance to root out the corruption menace and cited the Delhi metro rail system and online railway reservation system as examples of good governance. Delhi Traffic police too can implement something similar ways to collect the fines in simpler way.

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