Why auto drivers fear the police

Wheels within wheels of misgovernance


Shivani Chaturvedi | January 18, 2011

The psychological influence of the police uniform is quite palpable in our country. The fear of the khaki runs deep among the ordinary citizens, but it is especially pronounced among the auto rickshaw drivers and other service providers such as vendors who interact with the law enforcers on a regular basis. Why do these people live in perpetual fear of the police?

I got the answer to this question recently when I was travelling from Qutub Minar to Central Secretariat nearly 13 km away. I had not even reached mid-way when a traffic policeman stopped the auto, asked his colleague, a lady traffic cop, to sit in the auto alongside me and instructed the driver to drop her near Central Secretariat metro station. The driver did not utter even a single word. When the lady cop reached her destination and was about to leave, I asked the driver to charge her half for the distance she had travelled with me. The lady was stunned, and so was the driver. In fact, before the cop could say anything, the driver pleaded with me to let her go. “Madam rehne dijiye. Aap kam kar ke kiraaya de dejiyega. Jaane dijiye. (Madam, leave it. You deduct her fare and pay me less),” he said.

“Should I pay?” the lady cop asked the driver, who declined immediately. I paid the full fare but asked the driver why he felt obliged to suffer the cops in this manner. The driver explained that he only stood to lose by charging the cop. “She would have challaned me,” he said, “I am driving on an expired licence!”

That explains it. Most auto drivers don’t follow the rules themselves. Either their papers are not in order or the meter is faulty. That is why they are at the mercy of the police. And so long as they keep the police on their side, they know they can fleece the hapless commuters. It is a vicious cycle.



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