Road under repair is way to wealth for cops

A bribe will allow motorists to drive on a closed road

The police, who patrol the two checkposts on the stretch, charge a ‘nominal fee’ for letting the vehicles take the road. But their ‘revenue’ totals nearly Rs 1 lakh per day.

When the Sampaje-Madikeri road development work was announced by Karnataka State Road Development Corporation (KSRDC) three months ago, the road was barred for the movement of private vehicles from December 20 to April 31. The administrations of both Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts announced the closure of the 28-km stretch to facilitate the road development work. The vehicles were directed to move on the alternative route, the Baddadka-Karike-Bhagamandala stretch.
 
Government buses plying directly between Sullia and Madikeri were cancelled. A special arrangement was made wherein limited buses could ply on the Madikeri-Sampaje and Sampaje-Sullia stretches (as Sampaje is the mid-point).

Owing to public request, the Kodagu district administration also decided to lend official passes to help a few private and emergency vehicles ply on the stretch. It also permitted the movement of light motor vehicles.

However, now, even vehicles without pass are allowed to move on the stretch, courtesy the police at the Sampaje and Katigiri Cross checkposts. If you are travelling on the Sullia-Madikeri road, you will be stopped at the Sampaje checkpost. A policeman or an agent will tell you that “the road is closed and vehicles are not allowed” and then ‘understanding’ your situation, he will ask you to pay a certain amount (bribe) and the gate is wide open. The police have fixed different amounts for different types of vehicles.

When this correspondent reached Sampaje checkpost in a cab, the vehicle was stopped. A boy near the checkpost (supposedly appointed by Sullia APMC) said vehicle movement was barred on the road.

But the very next moment he received a ‘signal’ from a policeman at the Sampaje sub police station. The boy took the correspondent and the driver inside a makeshift structure, where he sought Rs 100 to open the gate”.

After receiving the money, he entered the amount and the vehicle number in a book and opened the gate. The process repeated on the return journey from Madikeri. But this time the vehicle was stopped at Katigiri checkpost and a policeman himself received the money to let the vehicle pass.

The Sullia-Madikeri stretch connects Mysore to Dakshina Kannada. Those travelling between the two districts are unaware of the road work and end up travelling on the Sullia-Madikeri Road, only to make the policemen richer.

Rajashekhar Gowda Patil, a tourist from Gulbarga, who was allowed to pass the checkpost after paying Rs 200, said, “We were not aware of the road closure. Though the police near the checkpost said boards have been put up in Sullia regarding the road closure, we never came across such boards. We had already reached Sampaje and it was difficult to return to Sullia and travel in the alternative route,” he said.

Even those travellers who are aware of the road closure prefer the Sullia-Madikeri road as the alternative road is 30 km longer. 

One of the locals said a large number of vehicles are allowed to pass on this road during the night. “If the small and medium vehicles travel during the day, the police even allow trucks carrying laterite stone to travel on this road in the night. How can the road work be of good quality, if the road is damaged during construction itself?” he asked.

The RNN Construction Company engineer, Shiv Prakash, speaking to Deccan Herald, expressed anguish at the police for letting the vehicles on the under-construction road. “We requested the police many times to strictly block the road. But they didn’t listen. We are doing our best for the road work and they are doing their best to spoil it,” he said.

On an average the number of private vehicles (without pass) which pass through the Sullia-Madikeri road per day is 500. While cabs are charged Rs 100, tempo taxis and tourist vehicles are charged Rs 200 and the trucks are charged Rs 1,000 (only at night).
One of the contractors said, “We have appointed two boys at each of the checkposts to curtail vehicle movement on the road during night. The police order these boys to collect money from the vehicle drivers to open the gate.”

According to an office-bearer of Sullia Chamber of Commerce, not only the police, but also the forest department and APMC officials are involved in the racket.

“We have no idea as to why the Deputy Commissioners have not taken measures to curb vehicle movement,” he said.

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