Even before Kejriwal takes oath, bribe taking wanes

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) Just hours after the AAP swept to a brute majority in Delhi, a young vendor who sells ‘momos’ (dim sums) in south Delhi refused to pay the beat constable the daily ‘hafta’ or bribe money.

“I won’t pay any more, and I won’t pay for five years,” the vendor, who is in his 20s and parks himself near a bus stand, told the startled policeman who beat a silent and hasty retreat.

The next day, petty traders who routinely paid policemen bribes every morning while moving their home manufactured goods from Sangam Vihar in south Delhi were surprised that no one sought money from them.

In another part of south Delhi, a group of auto-rickshaw drivers said they would no more pay bribes to park their vehicles along a main road – which they had been doing for a long time to keep peace with cops.

Incidents such as these are being reported from different areas as Delhi prepares for a five-year regime of anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal, who will take oath Saturday as chief minister for a second term.

When he took oath as chief minister for the first time in December 2013, Kejriwal made it more than clear that he would not tolerate corruption in any form. Corrupt officials were threatened with dismissal.

He also urged Delhi’s residents not to pay bribes and instead to covertly record on mobile telephones requests for bribes from officials – and to alert his administration.

In no time, the obnoxious practice of paying ‘hafta’ or payoff money to police and municipal corporation employees by small time vendors and even traders came to a virtual end.

This was unprecedented in a society where bribery is a way of life.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activists say that with Kejriwal set to take power Saturday, the message has gone home that corruption will not be tolerated.

No one knows how much ‘hafta’ or payoff money is generated every day – from transporters, vendors, traders and just about anyone doing business in the capital. It is believed to run into hundreds of thousands of rupees.

“The fact is no one before Kejriwal ever ended day-to-day corruption the way he did,” said Surinder Singh, a doctor in south Delhi who was among the millions who voted for the AAP this time.

“Naturally, his reputation as someone who cannot tolerate corruption deters the corrupt,” he added.

This could also be one reason why Delhi Police wants to provide high-level security to Kejriwal, who it is felt could at some point of time be targeted by those who suffer economically because of his distaste for corruption.

This is said to be one reason why the overwhelming majority of the city’s poor and the not-so-poor, including vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers and all those engaged in low-income work, voted en masse for the AAP.