In a move that is going to stop the harassment of vehicle owners and eradicate corruption in the police force, the West Bengal government has issued several instructions to all superintendents and commissioners of police that only a traffic policeman, accompanied by a motor vehicle inspector, will henceforth be empowered to check the papers of any vehicles for violations of traffic rules or in case of any doubt about any traffic or ownership related matter.
The roads in Kolkata and elsewhere in the state are full of home guards and civic volunteers. This class of road watchers (one cannot call them anything else) are there just to guide the traffic and perhaps prevent vehicles from blatantly flouting rules. But they are not empowered to either demand the papers of the vehicles or threaten to fine vehicle owners. They can just either click the vehicle image on their cellphones or note down the vehicle number and report any traffic violation to the relevant traffic guard.
But in order to exhort money from unsuspecting drivers and owners, these home guards and civic volunteers have of late started stopping vehicles and demanding money to "settle" cases of alleged traffic violations. This is completely illegal and the government has taken the present action after innumerable complaints of harassment from vehicle owners and transport unions.
The action came after the chief minister Mamata Banerjee had spoken about traffic police personnel extorting money from vehicle owners in East Midnapore about a month back. She had spoken about the harassment in the presence of DG Virendra and home secretary A Bandopadhyay. That had stirred the administration into reining in the juniors. But obviously that was not enough and hence the government has come out with this people-friendly instruction. This is another instance of the Mamata Banerjee government responding fast to complaints from the people.