Basheer is no average 12 year old. He studies during the day at school, but in the afternoon he earns money to run his family. As we stand watching him work on his road side stall, he takes a spoon and spins puffed rice with onions and condiments to make an evening snack called Bhelpuri. He sells each plate for Rs 10. He sells nearly 50 in a day, making him about 500 a day. But the cost of buying the goods is about 250 rupees. What he makes is enough for the family, but, his uncle has to pay over Rs. 1000 as bribe to the meandering policemen that visit every month.
Police corruption is everywhere in Munirka
The case of Basheer's uncle is not an isolated one. India according to Transparency International is ranked 79th out of 176 and the worst performer in the Asia-Pacific region. From 2014 to 2016, the Vigilance wing of Delhi Police caught 109 police officers for taking bribe with 39 cases reported in 2016. The Asian Age reportedly quoting a police officer pegged the number of policemen against whom appropriate action had been taken at 16. The paper, also, reported that the department registered 88 cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act against 77 policemen and inquiries were conducted against 838 policemen. Around, 90 policemen were dismissed from service as a result of various complaints filed against them.
The case of Munirka is a curious one as it offers no different picture in terms of corruption, but, has proved to be a beehive of illegal colonies which many experts have pointed out to be a big reason for corruption. Just a few blocks away from Munirka is the Motilal Nehru Camp, a makeshift colony that houses many shanties and shops. Most of these shop-owners deny having any licenses and pay the policemen who visit the camp once a month to extort money from the local shopkeepers. The estimates vary from anywhere between 200 to 1500 a month for some shopkeepers.
MCD is party to the corruption
The entrance to the camp is accompanied by a board displaying "Shamshan Ghat" and a road full of potholes welcomes any occasional visitor. Umesh, a vegetable seller who recently shifted to the camp, settles his cart purposely just inside the alley, so, that the policemen don't bug him. Inside the camp, two kids sell marijuana and discuss their struggles. Both the kids, students of a nearby government school, confabulate their situation calling themselves "sandwiched" between the police and the goons. "The goons, generally inebriated locals, attack people who pass-by and take their money and police only comes when there is a big crime," said one of the children. The other kid rues the fact that if one doesn't pay up, the policemen thrash the said person and don't let him open his shop. More than 40 lakh people live in these illegal slums in Delhi.
Just adjacent to the alley sits Mr. Shamshad who sells meat for a living. He talks about how he grew up in the area which once was a forest to what it is now - an urban space. He says he lives from hand to mouth, but, employs three workers. Despite being the owner of an establishment that sells perishable food items, he has never acquired license of any kind and pays off police to continue his business. Situation is somewhat different, yet, concerning in the Munirka Village where most of the shopkeepers do possess licenses, but, abuse of Mixed Land Use policy is rampant. This policy dictates that ground floor and basement of residential buildings can be used for commercial activities, but, prior permission from municipal properties is necessary. There were multiple residential buildings that had commercial businesses running from floors above the ground floor too.
Ghanshyam sells tea and cigarettes in his makeshift shop, like scores of other vendors. He and others have never acquired licenses and continue to sell tobacco products despite a recent order by the Centre instructing all the State governments to develop a mechanism through the municipal authority to provide "permission/authorisation" to retail outlets selling tobacco products. Giving them company are the countless "momo sellers" who too operate without licenses making them vulnerable to police and developing this shady black economy where both the parties function and flourish.
The police officers at the Vasant Vihar Police Station lament the lack of police personnel to the deteriorating situation. One of the constables, Mr. Ramdas said,"We work day and night and make sure that the situation is under-control, but, there are a few issues that we are still working on". Delhi is a testament to the fact that it doesn't have many law enforcers on roll. There are 27 policemen for every 5440 people in Delhi. The recent promotion drive which saw more than 25, 000 constables being promoted to Assistant Sub-Inspector led to a void of over 6,000 constables.
Who is their Boss?
As far as aspirations of the city and Basheer are concerned, he sums it up perfectly - "Dekhte hai kya bante hai"(Let's see what happens).