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Almost half Delhi helpline calls accuse police of graft-paper

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 16 Jan 2014 12:07 GMT
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Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel take part in a rehearsal for the Jan. 26 Republic Day parade on a cold winter morning in New Delhi. Picture January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
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NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Almost half the 50,000 calls from the public received by an anti-corruption helpline launched in the Indian capital a week ago have been complaints about the police, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.

The helpline, 011 27357169, was created as a top priority by the new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) city government to give members of the public advice on exposing officials who demand bribes, enlisting them as informal graft-busters.

Action has been taken against 10 government employees on the basis of calls to the helpline in the past week - eight of them police officials, the paper said.

They include a sub-inspector who demanded 9,000 rupees ($146) for verifying a gun licence and two constables who wanted a 3,000 rupee ($48) bribe to let a  trader keep his shop open.

One complainant recorded his phone conversation with corrupt police officials, as advised by the helpline, and then passed it to the Anti-Corruption Branch which conducted a raid, the paper said.

"Investigations by the Anti-Corruption Branch have revealed that the arrested constables were used by their seniors to take bribes. While two more constables were suspended the next day, we have also taken action against the Station House Officer and sub-inspector," a senior police officer was quoted as saying.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal launched the helpline on Jan. 9, saying that callers would be given advice and support on how to conduct a "sting operation" against corrupt public servants by securing audio/visual evidence of the crime being committed.

Tackling corruption was the main policy of the AAP in the run-up to the Delhi Assembly elections last month, and a dedicated anti-graft helpline was one of the party’s main manifesto priorities.

The AAP, formed in late 2012 after a two-year anti-corruption drive led by Kejriwal's former mentor, Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, stunned the ruling Congress and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the Delhi polls last month, winning 28 of the 70 seats and forming a new city government with outside support from the Congress Party.

Political analysts say the party has tapped into growing middle-class anger with Indian politicians, who are often perceived to be siphoning off public funds instead of providing public services.

The AAP promised in its manifesto send corrupt city lawmakers to jail within one year. Nationally, almost a third of India's lawmakers face criminal charges, but many are shielded by the slow-moving legal system.

The party now plans to convert the growing public anger over corruption into votes in the national elections due later this year.

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