Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: For the past three decades, I’ve noticed a pattern n the police force in Gujarat. Every time a case of corruption crops up within the force, the first ones to get the rap is the head constable or the constable in the department under question. These lower rank cops are the ones who operate as the ‘vahivatdar’ or middlemen who collect bribes for their senior inspectors and IPS officers commanding them. They get shunted out and posted from one city to another as a part of the punitive action. The higher rank officers might criticize the constables for taking bribes and aiding corruption, but in reality, these officers need such cops to aid the inflow of bribes to them.

Recently, the joint commissioner of police (JCP) in Ahmedabad Vipul Agrawal transferred a head constable and a constable posted in the city to another place. Both these cops were said to be the ‘vahivatdars’ of their seniors. Agrawal further ordered that these two cops should not be given field duty in their new place of posting and if they’re found operating in the field, their reporting office will be answerable to the act and have to face the music for it.

Any government official/servant found to be receiving any sum other than his salary or compensation while on duty can be booked and punished under the Prevention of Corruption Act. But the higher ranking police officers never get charged for corruption as his/her hands are never soiled with bribes, it is their ‘vahivatdar’ or middlemen that deal with all these things. But every time a scandal breaks out, the lower rank cops who act as their senior officers’ vahivatdars have to face the law and get punished.

There have also been instances where it was not the constables but inspectors and sub-inspectors were acting as the bridge for bribes to be paid to an IPS officer. They normally never face the risk of getting booked for corruption thanks to the IPS officer they’re operating for. But fallout with the IPS officer might lead to transfers of the inspectors and sub-inspectors. In fact, a sort of ‘tender system’ has now come into place amongst the senior cops, where one cop assures the higher official that he/she’ll get him double the bribes than the current one, which can lead to the transfer of the current senior police inspector or sub-inspector.

It’s not just personal greed that fuels this kind of corruption. Many times, the extra expenditure to keep a branch or police station running to forces the cops to take bribes. The DCP grants only Rs 25,000 from its secret fund for such expenses, but many times the cops have to shell out more money when the tip-off or information being provided to them is huge. That is when the money collected by the vahivatdars is used by the cops. The expenses may include paying the informants and sometimes the airfare for the travelling done by the cops who have to rush to a different city in a different state in a short span of time to nab an accused. According to police rules, cops below the rank of DySP are not allowed to travel by flights for official work, but because the actual investigation work is done by the PIs and PSIs, they have to be reimbursed the cost of air travel incurred by them.

Several other instances of expenses incurred by the police inspectors for their reporting IPS officers include purchasing movie tickets for the family members of the officer and sometimes train tickets of AC compartments too. The inspectors who are ordered to purchase these tickets are never inquired how much money it cost them, nor do they ask the IPS officers to reimburse the same to them. Such expenditures are met using the bribe money.

Even the officers are aware of how these expenses are met and where the money is coming in from. But when the time to face law arrives, only the small fry gets the punishment. I am not trying to paint an innocent image of the cops indulging in corruption for their bosses, but simply stating a truth.