Inspectors at police stations, crime branch unit, have been asked to collect hafta
Pune: A new trend is seen among the Pune police commissionerate where top ranking officials want hafta (protection money) or bribes without having their own man collecting it. All the police stations, crime branch unit inspectors have allegedly been asked to do the needful instead.
Sources say every police station is in cohorts with all kinds of illegal business in its respective area of jurisdiction.
And instead of cracking down on them, police stations collect hafta to cover them up, “even taking money from perfectly legal traders” which are distributed to a chain of officers extending right to the top of the department’s hierarchy. It is a well-oiled syndicate of extortion clad in khaki.
It is alleged that hafta collected per day can range from Rs 10 to over Rs 10,000, depending on the nature of the business, earnings and the extent of illegality involved.
There are designated collector policemen, popularly known as ‘vasuli’, to amass the ‘loot’ and bring it to inspectors-in-charge, divisional assistant commissioners of police (ACPs) and deputy commissioners of police (DCPs), additional commissioners till very top level officers.
When confronted, the officials argue that they have to send the ‘collection’ to Mantralaya in Mumbai also.
The cops extort money on a daily, weekly or monthly basis from legal business, traders, transporters, hoteliers, restaurateurs, shopkeepers, builders and so on. Sex workers, drug dealers, street vendors and even thieves have to dole out money.
There can be one or two vasulis at every police station and crime branch unit. There is always competition among policemen for this ‘plum’ post as vasulis collect mostly cash. Apart from this, cops from local police stations and beat marshalls also manage to get chiri-miri (small bribes) from these businesses.
A police inspector told Sakal Times, “The newly appointed senior officers do not want to have their own man doing this ‘dirty’ job as this spoils their image. They want us to collect hafta on their behalf. This has left many of us in problems as the person who pays hafta doubts us whether we are indeed collecting it for the senior saheb.”
Another officer added, “A police inspector from the crime branch is especially handling hafta collection for a few top officials. His unit has jurisdiction all over the commissionerate which includes areas under the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) as well as the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) besides some gram panchayats.”
Not only this, many of the illegal businesses are being operated only because of full backing of the cops. Prostitution, hookah parlours besides brewing liqour are such businesses. The monthly collection per police station is estimated to be in lakhs of rupees.
The crime branch’s collection from sex workers especially from high profile escort services and drug dealers is reportedly in lakhs per month.
The traffic police’s collection figure also runs into lakhs from ordinary citizens as well as business outlets especially restaurants, food joints besides transport buses and autorickshaws.