Bandi Srinivas stopped by a sweet shop on January 17, little realising that his ‘short’ stop would lead to a protracted ordeal. A government official, Dr. Srinivas realised that his car was ‘clamped’ as he stopped in the ‘No Parking’ area near Shankar Math.
Realising his mistake, he offered to pay the challan amount of Rs. 200 on the spot, but the torment began after he demanded a receipt. “The constable was ready to leave me after taking money but did a volte face when I asked for the challan receipt,” Dr. Srinivas said. It was a good one hour before he finally got his receipt.
His experience, however, is not an isolated case. Scores of motorists are facing similar problems on a daily basis. And the reason: challans can be issued only by officials of the rank of sub-inspector (SI) and above, but constables and home guards routinely flag down motorists in the absence of senior officials.
Another problem is when policemen check for a vehicle’s pending challans with personal digital assistants (PDA). According to traffic officials, motorists should be stopped only near eSeva centres to check pending challans, so that they can pay the dues immediately. However, this may not be the case every time.
“I routinely see that policemen, armed with PDAs, stop motorists at the Alugadda Bavi Junction. Where are the eSeva centres near that junction?” an irate motorist asked. This is not just limited to checking pending challans. Policemen also stop motorists near junctions in the absence of senior officers, he pointed out.
“In this scenario, the discussion boils down to a simple argument. Wait for the arrival of the SI and pay a challan of Rs. 300 - 400 or pay Rs. 100 and get away immediately. Given these choices, most motorists prefer to get away immediately,” he said.
When motorists demand receipts, they are subjected to humiliation. “The constable who caught me threatened that he would lodge a case against me and ensure that I would be sent to the Chanchalguda prison,” Dr. Srinivas recounted. “It was my fault to stop, but is it a fault if I want to obtain a receipt?” he asked.
Police officers, on the other hand, point out that strict action will be taken against the personnel if a complaint is lodged against them. “We need evidence to take action against people who indulge in such activities,” said an officer.
One should note the name of the policeman who demands money, and if he is not wearing a name tag, one should at least note down the place, time and the area where such incidents happen. Motorists can also take pictures of the policeman and submit complaints either on Facebook or e-mail with their full details, or can go to the police station in person and lodge a complaint, he says. Notwithstanding officials promise better grievance redressal mechanisms, are there fool-proof mechanisms to avoid such incidents?