Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sting on police, with politician at right end

Sting on police, with politician at right end

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Patna, Jan. 23: When the caller identified himself as the owner of the truck his men had stopped, the police officer was ready to bargain over the bribe.

What he hadn’t bargained for was that the purported truck owner would turn out to be a minister, armed with a voice recorder.

The Nawada deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Sheel Chandra Kumar, today became the “victim” of a sting operation by — for a change — a politician.

Bihar transport minister Ajit Kumar got the idea when a truck owner from Samastipur, Anil Kumar Singh, approached him with a complaint. His truck, on its way from Koderma in Jharkhand to Bihar’s Samastipur, had been stopped by a bribe-hungry DSP and his men on January 19.

The officer apparently found the truck travelling without its papers in order and threatened to seize it unless the owner coughed up a fine of Rs 65,000 — or a bribe of Rs 25,000.

Posing as the truck’s owner, the minister called the officer on his mobile phone and managed to get the bribe slashed to Rs 20,000.

Ajit Kumar, who is in the middle of an anti-corruption drive in his department, recorded the conversation and then briefed chief minister Nitish Kumar. On Nitish’s orders, Nawada police registered a case against the DSP.

“My government is seriously concerned about corruption in society. It is top of our agenda,” the chief minister later said. “The officer has been caught red-handed. Corrupt officers, no matter of which department, should not be let off.”

Ajit has been carrying out surprise checks at department offices. He has already uncovered a driving licence scam in the Patna district transport office.

It was during his inspection of a transport office in Muzaffarpur that the actual truck owner had approached the minister.

“We want our state to shine with a new face. Corruption is deep-rooted and has to be uprooted, no matter in what department,” the minister said.

Ajit has also exposed an inter-state racket involving “golden cards” issued by transport departments to simplify tax payment by truck owners.

Truckers can buy a card for Rs 6,000 or less depending on the loads carried by their vehicle. The card is pasted on the windscreen, giving the truck freedom from tax checks for three months.

“We stumbled on this… scam when the department checked a truck coming from Uttar Pradesh that had a fake card on it. The scam may be deep-rooted, involving a loss of crores of rupees to the state,” the minister said.
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