­Confessions of a Traffic Constable

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It’s said that you can smell danger, but you cannot smell a thulla who sets a trap

How do we set traps for traffic violators? We hunt in packs of two or three, one of us is an ASI-ranked officer. The speed gun is charged, challan book readied, wireless sets cranked up and the high-speed pursuit motorbike at a distance, ready. Next, we look for a strategic place. Large trees, paan shops, bridges, desolate traffic lights—we like them all. Once ensconced behind, we let the bakras (victims) come.

There’s no escape from me. Fleeing is the worst thing you can do. That’s when you put yourself and all others around you, including me, in greater danger. It’s said that you can smell danger, but you cannot smell a thulla (a cop in Delhi) who sets a trap.

My sole objective is not to extract money. Rather, making roads safer and commutes easier is my prime ‘duty’. It’s fraught with many dangers. Last year, a driver fell asleep and slammed his car into me. I landed in the hospital with broken limbs. Another time, a bomb went off where I was to be deputed.

We have to watch out for all kinds of crazy and drunk people on the roads. Once an inebriated young guy sped by on his car while talking on his mobile. When I stopped him, he completely denied everything, including that he was on the phone. I had to make him go through the call history on his phone to prove him wrong. He then got on the phone and placed another call. This time it was to a former Deputy Commissioner of Police. The retired officer asked me to let off the violator after a chhota-wala (small) fine.

Monetary fines are not the only way we teach traffic violators a lesson. Once, we had an officer who made traffic light violators abandon their vehicles and sit under a tree, doing nothing for hours. He said, “Let’s see how you can save time now by jumping traffic lights.” He wouldn’t take a single paisa. He was not of the kind I personally know, who have more than doubled their income through kharcha paani (bribery).

Our own ‘big brothers’ watch us too. They are the vigilance officers from the state’s anti-corruption wing. They have their own ways to function. They gave me ‘darshan’ one fine evening near the Red Fort. We parted amicably after we settled the difference in our account book. Since then, I have never seen them.

The traffic constable has worked in New Delhi for 15 years.