“This is the beginning of the end of corrupt,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared after criticism over demonetization recently. But what does it take for a police constable to fight against ‘rampant corruption’ in his very own department even after he has been repeatedly transferred and his complaints are ignored by his superiors? Sunil Bhagwantrao Toke, a police head constable is now a known face in Maharashtra. Earlier this month, Toke filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court, alleging rampant corruption in the city police’s traffic division and seeking a departmental inquiry against the corrupt officials. To prove his allegations, he annexed 40 video clips. The HC on Monday directed the Additional Director General of Police (Anti Corruption Bureau) to supervise the inquiry being carried out by the department into Toke’s allegations. Pratik Mukane caught up with the whistleblower cop at his home to know more about his battle against corruption.
Wearing a white t-shirt and shorts, sitting on a bed in his nearly 150 sq-ft room in BDD chawl near Jamboree maidan in Worli, Sunil Toke, who is now posted with the Local Arms (LA) division, showed me the video clips of various traffic police constables accepting bribes. The videos spanned over one and half year. “These traffic policemen are so corrupt, they don’t even give up on a bribe from ambulances or vans carrying dead bodies,” he said.
The first time, he recalls, was only within a few months of him joining service when he’d caught three underage children counting money in a Vakola slum. “When they saw us, they dropped the money and ran away. My seniors asked me not to make an official entry of the money we had found but I refused to do that and registered the case. I was soon transferred to another police station.”
While chatting with me, Toke was also arranging the other evidence he had collected over the years, to present before the Bombay HC to make his case stronger. “I joined (the) police force in 1985 and have been transferred over 12 times in my last 32 years of service because of my refusal to accept bribes,” he said.
Till date, he has served at the Worli Police Station (PS), Local Arms (LA) Division, Azad Maidan PS, Special Branch and DB Mark PS. Between 2013 and 2016, he was posted with the Goregaon traffic police and Wadala traffic police, and now he has been transferred to the LA division again.
There are reports that Toke was often on leave and not performing well which led to his many transfers. When I inquired about that, he quipped, “Yes, I was on a leave but there was a reason. What can I do if I have health issues? I have diabetes and heart ailments. One medicine costs Rs 1,700 and I have evidence to prove that.”
Stating that the department could challenge his health issue claims at any time, he added, “There are constables who were on a leave for over 800 days. They were even paid salaries. Some people in the traffic department are not transferred for 15 years when the provision is for 5 years.”
While making any claims or allegations, Toke makes sure they are backed with evidence. He has a pile of files, which include information that he obtained through RTI pleas. So far, he has filled over 70 RTI pleas but he claims he was always given the wrong or insufficient information.
Toke wonders why his resignation was not accepted twice if he wasn’t performing well. Toke submitted his resignation for the first time on September 20, 2014, and then again on August 23, 2015, but he is yet to be relieved of his charge. He is scheduled to retire in 2023.
“I nabbed bank robbers who turned out to be murderers, caught gutka worth Rs 7 lakh but my superiors rarely recognised my work,” Toke said, showing copies of the FIRs he has with him.
Toke also proudly showed off the remarks made by a judge in 1998, asking to consider his commendable act in the case of apprehending accused, adding that he may also be considered for an award by the commissioner.
Every police station gets at least Rs 5 to 7 lakh every month and to collect the money an unofficial post of ‘Cashier” is created. There are at least two cashiers in every police station and their job is only to collect money, says Toke.
“Money is collected from illegally plying vehicles, overloaded trucks, tourist vehicles, school buses, five star hotels, and beer bars so that they can park vehicles illegally without paying fine. The amount is then shared between the constables right up to the senior officials,” he claimed.
The whistleblower had sent letters to his superiors relating various incidents of bribery but they never reached them. “The letters I sent to my top officials never reached them. Why would someone (his immediate senior) carry out his own inquiry if I’ve filed a complaint against him (them)?”
Talking about the enquiry that was initiated in 2015 after he complained about harassment for his refusal to accept bribes, he said, “I was literally treated like criminal. I was called and made to sit for hours. When the inquiry began, I was asked where was I born, why I joined only police department, why I studied in the village, why I came to Mumbai. I was asked silly questions in the efforts to make me lose my cool and mental balance so that they could say I was unstable.”
“The whole system is corrupt. Everyone is trying to prove me wrong. Seniors are saving there superiors. I have full faith in the judiciary, I won’t give up. I will even approach the Supreme Court,” says Toke, hoping to get justice from the court.
Interestingly, last year, Toke had fined his own son for not wearing a helmet. Toke’s family has six members – Toke, his wife, daughter, two sons and a daughter-in-law. He says his son and daughter-in-law were employed. The salary he gets is sufficient for his family as their requirements are not big.
First published on dnaindia.com